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
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 »
In 1935, Marshall, Texas, was major rail center, not a one-track whistle stop. See more »
[after James protests his inability to debate with Samantha or Henry]
James, you're the best researcher I've ever seen. We couldn't do this without you.
James Farmer Jr.:
Oh, there's PLENTY you do without me!
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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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