A Georgia Town’s First Desegregated Prom and the Killing That Further Divided Its People

An exclusive first look at the HBO documentary Southern Rites, which examines a town’s first desegregated prom and the killing that further divided people along racial lines.


Premiering on HBO May 18, Southern Rites is a new documentary that visits Montgomery County, Georgia, one year after the town finally merged its racially segregated proms. As the children are preparing for one of their first desegregated proms, a white resident is charged with murdering a 22-year-old black man, and the town is once again divided along racial lines. Meanwhile, Calvin Burns is running to become the town’s first black sheriff. The film is directed by acclaimed photographer Gillian Laub, whose photo series helped shed light on the area’s race relations problems, and executive-produced by musician John Legend.

“We’ve seen this on television a lot lately with young people whose lives do not need to be lost,” Legend says in the film. “People who were unarmed in situations where they were thought to be more dangerous than they really were. This film really explores the racial divide we see in the criminal justice system, the way people interact in their social lives, and of course, in voting as well.”

Here’s an exclusive first look at Southern Rites, featuring Laub and Legend discussing their timely and meaningful film.