The Great Debaters



“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.” This commentary describes a violent event of the hanging of an African American. “Great Debaters” is an inspiring film, based on true events, that captures the reality of our social society. The brutality of racism is very graphically illustrated in the movie. Denzel Washington, the director of this film, uses a very realistic point of view that shows the barbarity of racial violence.

Based on true events, “The Great Debaters”, tells the story of a man named Melvin B. Tolson who is played by Denzel Washington.  When Tolson decides to start a debate team it sparks the attention of many people. The compelled teacher forms a team of brilliant and strong-minded African Americans. Of this group, includes a black girl who a very influential speaker which resembles much of what Audrey Lorde represents in her poem “Power”. The poem symbolizes the halting of these racial injustices. These remarkable students witness and experience the hate that many white people had for them. These debaters traveled to many different places witnessed many violent actions. There is a scene where the debaters are relocating for another debate and accidentally pull into a lynching of an African American man. The lynch mob chases the debaters with furious hate for reasons they probably couldn’t explain. James Farmer Jr., one of the more empowering debaters on the team says “What was this negro’s crime that he should be hung without trial in a dark forest filled with fog. Was he a Theif? 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”. “The Great Debaters” fought back and had the “Power” stand against the dark shadow of racial violence.



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