Southern Rites

Gillian Laub, Homecoming Court, Mt. Vernon, Georgia, October 2002 (2013.91.2)

Gillian Laub, Prom King and Queen Dance, Vidalia, Georgia, May 2009 (2013.91.1)

Gillian Laub, Prom King and Queen Dance, Vidalia, Georgia, May 2011 (2013.91.7)

Southern Rites by photographer Gillian Laub is a series of photographs that tell the story of the historically racially segregated proms in the town of Mt. Vernon in Georgia. Although the schools had been integrated since 1971, each spring and fall the proms would be segregated. This ended in 2011. Ms. Laub visited the town for the first time in 2002 and returned the following years to continue to document the stories that she encountered. Her photos of stories related to the segregated proms were first published in The New York Times Magazine and caused a national outrage. Under pressure the proms were unified and turned into one prom. In the introduction of the portfolio Gilian Laub writes:

Change was not my original intent. Photography for me is a deeply intimate engagement with individuals in which everything is personal and the closer you get, the more black and white resolves to gray. Photography enables me to look beyond the surface socio-political context -and explore a psychological and emotional landscape that often reveals deeper, more universal truths. I suppose on some level I always hope the revelation of these truths have impact -through an image that illuminates real humanity we are able to imagine, if only for a moment, that unbridgeable divides can somehow, because of what we all share, be surmounted.

This post is published to honor African American History Month.

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