In December 2007, the film ‘The Great Debaters’ starring Academy award winner Denzel Washington and actress Jurnee Smollett, made a notable debut. The film highlighted the story of the award winning Wiley College debate team from the 1930s – an African American debate team that won numerous competitions and defeated USC, the national debate champion in 1935.
During the time that the film was playing in theaters, Wiley College didn’t even have a debate team. Until now.
MSNBC.com highlights the revival of the debate team at the college, thanks to the movie’s popularity and a $1 million dollar donation from the star of the film, Denzel Washington. The article states that students began to call Wiley College after seeing the movie to join their debate them, but there wasn’t one to join. Now, the school has a debate coach with 11 members on the team. One student shared, “If it wasn't for the movie, I wouldn't be here at all.” Read article here.
Photo: Donna Mcwilliam/AP