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Black History Month film: 'The Great Debaters'

February 2, 2009

Black Student Services and the student organization, Black Definition, are hosting the inspirational film, 'The Great Debaters' as part of Black History Month.

Black History Month film

Black Student Services and the student organization, Black Definition, are hosting several films in conjunction with Black History Month. The Great Debaters will be shown on Friday, Feb. 6 at noon in the Lory Student Center, room 204.  

Black debate team top in nation

The film, based on a true story, revolves around the efforts of debate coach Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) at historically black Wiley College to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American South during the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were common and lynch mobs were a pervasive fear for blacks.

In the movie, the Wiley team eventually succeeds to the point where they are able to debate and win over Harvard University. 

The match-up was actually between Wiley and the University of Southern California, who at the time were the reigning debating champions. Wiley College won this matchup. The filmmakers depicted the competition as being with Harvard to demonstrate the heights the Wiley debate team achieved.

Ironical ending in true life

The real story is that the Wiley team could not declare themselves victors of the debate because in the 1930s, Black debate teams were not considered part of the debate society.  In the film, the Wiley team are declared the winners of the competition. 


More Colorado State Black History Month actitivites.

Contact: Marlon Blake
Phone: (601) 329-4125