Uptown Saturday Night | The Great Debaters

One of this year’s mainstays in our Uptown Saturday Night Monthly Movie Ministry, Denzel Washington returns with the inspirational story of college debate team overcoming odds to make history in the 2007 film, The Great Debaters.

Washington’s second film behind the camera focuses on poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson (Washington) who teaches at the predominately black Wiley College in 1935 Texas. He decides to start a debate team, something nearly unheard of at a black college. While at first, he butts heads with the influential father (Forest Whitaker) of one of his best debators, eventually he is able to form a team of strong-minded, intelligent young students, and they become the first black debate team to challenge Harvard’s prestigious debate champions.


The Wiley College Debate Team, 1930.

The film is based on an article written about the Wiley College debate team by Tony Scherman for the spring 1997 issue of American Legacy. It also starred a group of celebrated actors whose careers have grown over the past decade, including Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Kimberly Elise (Diary of A Mad Black Woman), Nate Parker (The Birth of A Nation), Gina Ravera (Soul Food), Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett (Underground). The screenplay was written by Robert Eisele and was released in theaters on December 25, 2007

Earlier this year in our series, we showcased the two-time Oscar and six-time Black Reel Award-winning actor in Malcolm X, as well as his narration in Chasing Trane.

The Tenth Anniversary Celebration of The Great Debaters will take place, Saturday, November 4, 2018, in the Fellowship Hall of Celebration Church at Columbia, located at 6080 Foreland Garth, Columbia, Maryland. Doors open at 5:30 pm – the film will begin promptly at 6 pm. Film critic and ministry lead Tim Gordon will introduce the film and will host the talkback at the conclusion of the film.

We hope to see you there!

Check out the trailer below:

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