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The Great Debaters (2007)

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.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (story) | 2 more credits »

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 11 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Henry Lowe
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Samantha Booke (as Jurnee Smollett)
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James Farmer Jr.
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Hamilton Burgess
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Dr. James Farmer Sr.
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Ruth Tolson
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Sheriff Dozier
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Pearl Farmer
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Helen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
Trenton McClain Boyd ...
Nathaniel Farmer
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Deputy
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Pig Owner
...
Pig Farmer
...
Dunbar Reed
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

When the nation was in need, he inspired them to give us hope.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 December 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Debate Pela Liberdade  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,604,000 (USA) (21 December 2007)

Gross:

$30,226,144 (USA) (11 April 2008)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The diploma hanging in Dr. James Farmer's study is an authentic copy provided to the art department by Boston University archivist Kara Jackman. See more »

Goofs

On the train, the combine is placed between the coach and the observation car, and the baggage car is in the back. At the time, large pieces of freight, like combines, were put at the front of the train, behind the baggage car. See more »

Quotes

Melvin B. Tolson: Take the meanest, most restless nigger. Strip him of his clothes in front of the remaining male niggers, female niggers, and nigger infants, tar and feather him, tie each leg to a horse facing an opposite direction, set him on fire, and beat both horses until they tear him apart in front of male, female and nigger infants. Bullwhip and beat the remaining nigger males within an inch of their life. Do not kill them but put the fear of God in them, for they can be useful for future breeding. ...
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Connections

Featured in 73rd Golden Globe Awards (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

My Soul is a Witness
Performed by Alvin Youngblood Hart & Sharon Jones
Produced by G. Marq Roswell
Traditional
Arranged by Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones & G. Marq Roswell
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User Reviews

 
You should see this film
20 December 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I say this because: 1) The acting is remarkable. Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise are all stunningly good 2) The cinematography is very well done and the score is beautifully and uplifting. 3) The story is great. It has multiple underdog themes which when watching, you root so much for the underdog it actually hurts :). These would be: a) the black people in the south in the 1930s b) little Wiley collage (especially when they are vs Harvard) c) the 14 year old boy James P. Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) who is seemingly incapable at first of debating. Do yourself a favor and see "The Great Debaters". You are going to love it.


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