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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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 rapper Drake auditioned for a role in this movie. See more »
In the final debate against Harvard, James Farmer Jr. goes to the hot seat and clicks a ballpoint pen closed. The movie is set in 1935; the ballpoint pen was patented in 1938. See more »
Melvin B. Tolson:
Denigrate. There's a word for you. From the Latin word "niger", to defame, to blacken. It's always there, isn't it? Even in the dictionary. Even in the speech of a Negro professor. Somehow, "black" is always equated with failure.
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The movie was exactly what I had expected: a compelling story, strong actors and a great message. However, while Denzel delivers another stellar performance, you can't help notice that it has been seen several times before. You can mix the racial tensions of "Remember the Titans" with the underdog vibe of "Hoosiers," "Freedom Writers," and "Stand and Deliver" to understand where this is going. The story has solid pacing, a great cast and an easy to understand plot; a few minor side steps (talented but tormented student, first female student fighting both racism and gender issues, a younger than average student fighting for a father's love/respect while coming of age) but the message holds up and delivers an appropriate but completely unsurprising conclusion. A few frightening images for children need to be balanced with the powerful messages those images represent but overall an enjoyable movie but you will see the third act coming from a mile away....
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