A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
Marshall, Texas, described by James Farmer, Jr. as "the last city to surrender after the Civil War," is home to Wiley College, where, in 1935-36, inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and his clandestine work as a union organizer, Professor Melvin Tolson coaches the debate team to a nearly-undefeated season that sees the first debate between U.S. students from white and Negro colleges and ends with an invitation to face Harvard University's national champions. The team of four, which includes a female student and a very young James Farmer, is tested in a crucible heated by Jim Crow, sexism, a lynch mob, an arrest and near riot, a love affair, jealousy, and a national radio audience. Written by
On December 19, 2007, Denzel Washington announced a $1 million dollar donation to Wiley College so they could re-establish their debate team. See more »
When Samantha is participating in her first debate at Oklahoma City, she mentions World War I in her argument. In 1935, this war would have been referred to as the "Great War", since a World War II had not yet occurred. See more »
James Farmer Jr.:
Five dollars? Lowe, I got five dollars!
Yeah, I did too. It's called per diem. Want me to hold it for you?
James Farmer Jr.:
No, not MY five dollars.
[walks into the room waving her money in the air]
I got five dollars! I got five dollars!
Yeah, me too.
Well, mine is crisp.
[watches James gulp down a strawberry]
James, this is high tea, all right? We nibble, we do not DEVOUR.
James Farmer Jr.:
How do you know?
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You do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.
This wasn't about my Texas, although I am familiar with many of the topics in this film. I have been to Marshall in my travels over most of the highways in Texas, I know about Paul Quinn College and Prairie View A & M University. This wasn't even about my Daddy's Texas, as he was just a small boy at the time. It was, however, my Grandfather's Texas. he typified the characters in this film.
With Denzel Washington directing and acting, I expected an outstanding film. I was not prepared to be so emotionally taken in that I left the theater wiping tears from eyes. This was a powerful statement about the differences in American. Differences that were typified by Franklin Roosevelt's affirmative action program for whites - the New Deal; differences that would be repeated twenty years later after WWII when the whites again received affirmative action in the form of the GI Bill. Robert Eisele's story really brought home the pain and deprivation of being Black in America, and how some could overcome that deprivation with the right help, but could never overcome the pain.
Besides Washington, there were outstanding performances by Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, and Denzel Whitaker, as a 14-year-old in college.
Tears in my eyes, I will long remember this film as one of the best of the year and of many years.
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