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.
Samantha Booke 
- 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!
Henry Lowe 
- 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 feet from working barefoot 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?
Melvin B. Tolson 
- Denigrate. There's a word for you. From the Latin word niger, to defame, to blacken. It's always there, isn't it? Even in the dictionary. Even in the speech of a Negro professor. Somehow, black is always equated with failure.
- Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. No one? He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves, so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word lynching came from his last name. His methods were very simple, but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind.
- I am here to help you to find, take back, and keep your righteous mind.
- Melvin B. Tolson: We're holding tryouts for the debate team.
- Henry Lowe: You sure you want somebody like me?
- Melvin B. Tolson: No. That's why you're trying out.
- Melvin B. Tolson: Who is the judge?
- Samantha Booke, Henry Lowe, James L. Farmer Jr., Hamilton Burgess: The judge is God!
- Melvin B. Tolson: Why is he God?
- Samantha Booke, Henry Lowe, James L. Farmer Jr., Hamilton Burgess: Because he decides who wins or loses. Not my opponent!
- Melvin B. Tolson: Who is your opponent?
- Samantha Booke, Henry L. Lowe, James Farmer Jr., Hamilton Burgess: He doesn't exist!
- Melvin B. Tolson: Why does he not exist?
- Samantha Booke, Henry Lowe, James L. Farmer Jr., Hamilton Burgess: Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth I speak!
- Dr. James L. Farmer, Sr.: [after Tolson is unjustly captured and imprisoned] Since you have no evidence, I suggest you let him go.
- Sheriff Dozier: Are you threatening me, boy?
- Dr. James L. Farmer, Sr.: No, sir. I wouldn't do that. But I cannot speak for those people outside. [points toward the riotous mob gathered outside the sheriff's office]
- James L. Farmer Jr.: [opening package] Five dollars? Lowe, I got five dollars!
- Henry Lowe: Yeah, I did too. It's called per booger diem. Want me to hold it for you?
- James L. Farmer Jr.: No, not MY five dollars.
- Samantha Booke: [walks into the room waving her money in the air] I got five dollars! I got five dollars!
- Henry Lowe: Yeah, me too.
- Samantha Booke: Well, mine is crisp.
- [watches James gulp down a strawberry]
- Samantha Booke: James, this is high tea, all right? We nibble, we do not DEVOUR.
- James L. Farmer Jr.: How do you know?
- Samantha Booke: [smiling] I don't.
- Samantha Booke: James, you know I value your friendship...
- James L. Farmer Jr.: How can you value something you never had?
- Samantha Booke: So... we were never friends?
- James L. Farmer Jr.: Maybe I don't want to be just your friend. Maybe it HURTS me to be just your friend!
- 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