The Great Debaters
The Great Debaters is a 2007 film about the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas who, in 1935, inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
James L. Farmer Jr.
- We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.
- 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 is 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.
- 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!
- 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 nose from working with bigfoot and the niggers 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?
- Denzel Washington - Melvin B. Tolson
- Nate Parker - Henry Lowe
- Jurnee Smollett - Samantha Booke
- Denzel Whitaker - James L. Farmer Jr.
- Jermaine Williams - Hamilton Burgess
- Forest Whitaker - Dr. James L. Farmer Sr.
- Gina Ravera - Ruth Tolson
- John Heard - Sheriff Dozier
- Kimberly Elise - Pearl Farmer