The Great Debaters: Loved it, but they debated USC not Harvard

I loved “The Great Debaters”!  I saw it on Sunday and I think it’s something that the African American community should be excited about.  It’s a must see, especially for young people.  Take your children.  Take your family.  Discuss, discuss, discuss.  We need more movies like “The Great Debaters”!  Kudos to Oprah and Denzel…and all the actors too.  Especially that young man that played Mr. Lowe…good grief he is fine.  Denzel, you’re fine but you’re getting old.  Pass the torch to that young man, please.  Give him your mantle…your anointing…I think he can manage it.  LOL

My only issue with the movie was that Wiley College didn’t debate Harvard…they debated USC.  I heard this from a friend and went online to research…lots of people are buzzing about it…especially black news sites.

As part of their tour, Wiley College’s debate team defeated the reigning champions—not Harvard as in the movie, but the University of Southern California’s team—on the USC campus in Bovard auditorium. Denzel Washington is quoted in the Harvard Crimson as explaining that the site of the debate in the film was moved from USC to Harvard “because Harvard is the gold standard.”

In addition, according to the New York Times the “film omits one reality: even though they beat the reigning champions, the Great Debaters were not allowed to call themselves victors because they were not truly considered to belong to the debate society; blacks were not admitted until after World War II. The movie also explores the social milieu of the American South during the Great Depression including not only the day to day insults and slights African Americans had to endure, but also a lynching. James L. Farmer, Jr. , who was on Wileys’ debate team at 14 years old after completing high school (and who would later go on to co-found the Congress of Racial Equality) is also depicted. According to the Houston Chronicle, another character depicted on the team, Samantha Booke, is based on the real individual Henrietta Bell, “the only female member of the 1930 debate team from Wiley College who participated in the first collegiate interracial debate in the United States.” Also, according to the Marshall News Messenger, “there is no evidence that a debate with Harvard ever happened…. the debate Bell remembers was probably with Oxford University of England.” – Wikipedia

Reading the Wiki entry I found out that Denzel is giving Wiley College 1 million dollars so they can re-establish their debate team.  Awww, fine and a nice guy too!  That Denzel…so sexy.


Filed under academic, activism, african american, black, black man, black women, celebrity, change, children, community, culture, history, hollywood, news, opinion, race, student, youth

7 responses to “The Great Debaters: Loved it, but they debated USC not Harvard

  1. I saw this movie and thought it was great. While I didn’t share the same “love” for Denzel and Mr. Lowe … I could not stop staring at the girl playing Samantha. I know she has been acting since like 6, but man has she grown up.

    Anyways, movie is good. Little kids should be forced to see it and I expect it to make it to every black urban area’s middle school curriculum in a few years.

  2. Jennifer


  3. Umm…Jennifer…I’m sure at some point they did debate Harvard…but not at the point noted in the movie. USC was the champ. Research it yourself if you think I’m wrong.

  4. Mrs. Jones

    After looking into a lot of information about this online–including articles from before the movie–it seems as though the movie’s timeline is not historically accurate–it combines instances from different years and places them into one school year. It also seems that the Harvard story comes from a 1997 American Legacy article in which a former team members talks about it. However, other team members can’t recall it ever taking place. (Though they did debate Oxford). The debate team members, with the exception of Farmer, were composites of debaters through the years. The female character was based on Henrietta Bell Wells. see :
    However, what’s interesting to me is that in the movie (and maybe I need to see it again) Tolson says that Harvard extended an invitation to them to debate, not compete in a national championship. So while, the National Championship was won by defeating USC, I don’t think that’s what the movie was depicted. I think that would have made just as good a movie, though. Interestingly, in the movie the only team they lost to was my alma mater–the great Howard University!
    Also see:

  5. BISON!!!!!
    That’s my alma mater too!!!

  6. Maurice

    Contrary to some people’s belief, I strongly believe that Wiley College did defeat Harvard University during the national championship. Was I there? No. That’s just my belief. However, I understand that the thought of a little black college in Texas that was not as prestigious as Harvard most likely bruises some people’s egos, but get over it.

  7. leslie

    Who cares if this is absolutely 100% accurate or not!!??

    How many movies that you see are “100% right” to the T? None; they all have slight flaws.
    You got the jist of the movie, correct? Well, then thats all that you need to know.

    It was a tremendous movie with an excellent meaning. Stop nagging.

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