The Great(est) Debaters

I watched The Great Debaters a couple months ago, but it was such a great movie that I knew I had to share it on here eventually. Today is the perfect time for me to share it with you. As soon as I watched the trailer, which I found coincidentally, I knew I had to watch this movie. I’m so glad I did! It’s inspired by a true story and shows parts of history I hadn’t heard of before. The movie takes place in 1935 and is about a professor and the group of students on his debate team. It’s produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and directed by Denzel Washington.

The main character is Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington) who is a very strict teacher. He coaches his team to be winners and, for a time, they were unbeatable. He writes the team’s debates; counter arguments and all. They become the first African American school debate team to not only debate a group of white students, but they even land a debate with Harvard University (after doing a bit of research, I realized that the part about Harvard is not true). I’m surprised I heard nothing of this in my high school classes. The students on the debate team go on to become great adults: James L. Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) and Samantha Brooke (Jurnee Smollett), who represents real-life Henrietta Bell Wells, became a famous poet. Other notable actors in the movie include Nate Parker and Forest Whitaker.

The movie also highlights the Great Depression and the horrifying act of lynching. The part where they show lynching has stuck with me. The people in the movie look and remind me of zombies; eager to kill anyone they lay eyes on (in this case, any African American that either crossed their path or who they purposely sought out). It’s hard for me to believe that something so disgusting and barbaric happened all the time. It’s an understatement for me to say that I’m glad that time has changed things, but there’s still so much that needs change for the better.