Photo courtesy of Kaukauna and King: 50 years later

KAUKAUANA — The documentary, “The Exchange. In White America. Kaukauna & King 50 Years Later” will stream online as part of the 5th annual Hollywood International Diversity Film Festival.

The film chronicles the exchange program in 1966 between students from Kaukauna High School and Rufus King High School in Milwaukee to perform the groundbreaking play, “In White America,” during the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The documentary streams online Feb. 26-27, 2022. Tickets are $19.99

Ruth Thomas, an English teacher from Rufus King High School in Milwaukee and Thomas Schaffer an English teacher at Kaukauna High School arranged an exchange of students to explore racial understanding in their communities.

The students lived in each other’s homes and presented the controversial play in each community.

The documentary was created by Joanne Williams, a television journalist from Milwaukee and former Rufus King student who began the project in 2016 on the 50th anniversary of the exchange.

Williams sought out students and others who helped in the exchange to see what impact it had on them as high school students and how the experience shaped their perspectives on race relations in America 50 years later.

“I have covered news in Southeast Wisconsin for more than 40 years on WTMJ-TV and WITI-FOX6. During those years, this story has always been in the back of my mind and in the back of my files,” Williams said.

“Something told me, 50 years ago when I was a student at Rufus King High School, to hang onto an edition of the ‘King’s Page,’ the student newspaper. Maybe I was a journalist even then, but I was definitely interested in history so the paper stayed tucked away in my box marked ‘high school stuff.’”

The film features never-before-seen video footage from the exchange along with interviews with many of the participants, including original cast members and former teachers.

Watch the film streaming as part of the film festival HERE.

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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.