KAUKAUNA — The award-winning documentary, “The Exchange: Kaukauna and King, 50 years later,” airs Feb. 19, 2024 evening on PBS Wisconsin.

The documentary premieres 8 p.m. and is available now online at pbswisconsin.org and on the free PBS App.

The documentary is the story of an exchange of Black and White high school students in Wisconsin.

In 1966, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Thomas Schaffer an English teacher at Kaukauna High School, looking to perform the play “In White America” with KHS drama students, arranged a 13-student exchange between Kaukauna High School and Rufus King High School in Milwaukee.

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

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of those historic performances, Joanne Williams, a Rufus King alum and television journalist from Milwaukee, began producing a documentary on the exchange.

Williams, then the host of “Black Nouveau” on Milwaukee Public Television, set out to find all the students and the people who helped in the exchange, to see what impact it had on them as high school students and who they have become 50 years later and look at their perspectives on race relations in America.

“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 documentary also features the story of the revival of the play 50 years later by a new generation of high school students in the same schools and communities.

Read a review of the film HERE.

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By Dan Plutchak

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