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The Great Debaters (2007) Poster

Quotes

James Farmer Jr.: In Texas they lynch Negroes. My teammates and I saw a man strung up by his neck and set on fire. We drove through a lynch mob, pressed our faces against the floorboard. I looked at my teammates. I saw the fear in their eyes and, worse, the shame. What was this Negro's crime that he should be hung without trial in a dark forest filled with fog. Was he a thief? Was he a killer? Or just a Negro? Was he a sharecropper? A preacher? Were his children waiting up for him? And who are we to just lie there and do nothing. No matter what he did, the mob was the criminal. But the law did nothing. Just left us wondering, "Why?" My opponent says nothing that erodes the rule of law can be moral. But there is no rule of law in the Jim Crow south. Not when Negroes are denied housing. Turned away from schools, hospitals. And not when we are lynched. St Augustine said, "An unjust law in no law at all.' Which means I have a right, even a duty to resist. With violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.

James Farmer Jr.: We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.

Melvin B. Tolson: Who is the judge?

SamanthaHenry LoweJames Farmer Jr.Hamilton Burgess: The judge is God.

Melvin B. Tolson: Why is he God?

SamanthaHenry LoweJames Farmer Jr.Hamilton Burgess: Because he decides who wins or loses. Not my opponeent.

Melvin B. Tolson: Who is your opponent?

SamanthaHenry LoweJames Farmer Jr.Hamilton Burgess: He does not exist.

Melvin B. Tolson: Why does he not exist?

SamanthaHenry LoweJames Farmer Jr.Hamilton Burgess: Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth I speak!

Samantha: The state is currently spending five times more for the education for a white child than it is fitting to educate a colored child. That means better textbooks for that child than for that child. I say that's a shame, but my opponent says today is not the day for whites and coloreds to go to the same college. To share the same campus. To walk into the same classroom. Well, would you kindly tell me when that day is gonna come? Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never? No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always right now!

[Samantha just slapped Henry hard across the face]

Melvin B. Tolson: Resolved.

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Melvin B. Tolson: I and every professor on this campus are here to help you to find, take back, and keep your righteous mind... because obviously you have lost it.

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James Farmer Jr.: [opening package] Five dollars? Lowe, I got five dollars!

Henry Lowe: Yeah, I did too. It's called per diem. Want me to hold it for you?

James Farmer Jr.: No, not MY five dollars.

Samantha: [walks into the room waving her money in the air] I got five dollars! I got five dollars!

Henry Lowe: Yeah, me too.

Samantha: Well, mine is crisp.

[watches James gulp down a strawberry]

Samantha: James, this is high tea, all right? We nibble, we do not DEVOUR.

James Farmer Jr.: How do you know?

Samantha: [smiling] I don't.

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Melvin B. Tolson: We're holding tryouts for the debate team.

Henry Lowe: You sure you want somebody like me?

Melvin B. Tolson: No. That's why you're trying out.

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Samantha: James, you know I value your friendship...

James Farmer Jr.: How can you value something you never had?

Samantha: So... we were never friends?

James Farmer Jr.: Maybe I don't want to be just your friend. Maybe it HURTS me to be just your friend!

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James Farmer Jr.: We can't win without him!

[Melvin Tolson]

Samantha: You're wrong, we can't win without him.

[as she tosses a book at Farmer]

James Farmer Jr.: Thoreau?

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Henry Lowe: A brilliant young woman I know was asked once to support her argument in favor of social welfare. She named the most powerful source imaginable: the look in a mother's face when she cannot feed her children. Can you look that hungry child in the eyes? See the blood on his feet from working barefoot in the cotton fields. Or do you ask his baby sister with her belly swollen from hunger if she cares about her daddy's work ethics?

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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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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. Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. No one? He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves, so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word "lynching" came from his last name. His methods were very simple, but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind.

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Ruth Tolson: [hands Tolson a letter] Here, this came. Go on, open it.

Melvin B. Tolson: [noticing the broken seal] Hmm, looks like someone already opened it.

Ruth Tolson: [smiling mischievously] Not me.

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Dr. James Farmer, Sr.: [after Tolson is unjustly captured and imprisoned] Since you have no evidence, I suggest you let him go.

Sheriff Dozier: Are you threatening me, boy?

Dr. James Farmer, Sr.: No, sir. I wouldn't do that. But I cannot speak for those people outside.

[points toward the riotous mob gathered outside the sheriff's office]

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Melvin B. Tolson: We'll be one of the first Negro colleges to ever debate a white college. If we beat them, we beat the best.

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Samantha: [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.: [angrily] Oh, there's PLENTY you do without me!

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Harland Osbourne: This debate is stirring up a lot of excitement. It's going to be broadcast all over America.

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See also

Trivia | Goofs | Crazy Credits | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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