"The Great Debaters" Is Released
The Great Debaters is a 2007 film directed by and starring two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey and her production company, Harpo Productions.
It is based on an article written about the Wiley College debate team by Tony Scherman for the 1997 Spring issue of American Legacy.
The film co-stars Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Denzel Washington, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Gina Ravera, and Jurnee Smollett. The screenplay was written by Robert Eisele. The film was released in theaters on December 25, 2007.
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.