She wrote a letter to Spin, which was one of the magazines she subscribed to, saying, “Please come to my town, there’s such an injustice going on. By the time I got down there, Anna had just graduated but her sister Julie, who’s in the film, was in high school.I have a black boyfriend and I can’t take him to my prom because they’re segregated." She was a straight-A student and a cool girl, a very unique person — down with the white girls and black girls. Prom had passed and their next segregated event was homecoming.We went down that homecoming in the fall of 2002, and stayed at the local hotel, the Mount Vernon Inn and Suites.Anna chaperoned us around town, showing us everything. It's often in a neighboring town, Vidalia — you know, where we get the name of the onion.On assignment for the magazine, Laub traveled to the town to visit Rich shortly after — and has been documenting the Mount Vernon community ever since.In 2009, her photographs of the Montgomery County High School’s segregated proms were published in , resulting in national outrage that led the town to finally integrate.On Monday, HBO will broadcast Southern Rites, Laub’s documentary about the murder of a black boy and the ways in which interracial sex and dating between young Americans remains a locus of taboo and shame even in 2015.
Because of her local high school’s racially segregated prom and homecoming celebrations, Rich wrote, she was forbidden from taking her black boyfriend as her date.
That's their big town, and it would be in the Vidalia Community Center. Gillian.” What did you think of the scene down there at first?
There's a Hampton Inn there, and I became a regular at the Hampton Inn when I was doing the film. It was completely surreal because I was in this idyllic, gorgeous southern town with all these kids cheering.
And in the suburbs, prom and homecoming is the biggest thing.
You wouldn't necessarily expect a film about race relations from Gillian Laub, a New York photographer known for family portraiture with a sense of unreality, including a harrowing series of images of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians.
But there's nothing about the way that America deals with race that's not about both our shared history and what we learn from our families.