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The Great Debaters (2007)

Biography, Drama, Romance |.

The Great Debaters is a American biographical drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington. It is based on an article written about the Wiley College debate team by Tony Scherman for the spring 1997 issue of American Legacy.

The film co-stars Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett. The screenplay is written by Robert Eisele, with story by Robert Eisele and Jeffrey Porro. The film was released in theaters on December 25, 2007.

Based on a true story, the plot revolves around the efforts of debate coach Melvin B. Tolson at Wiley College, a historically black college related to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American South during the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were common and lynch mobs were a fear for blacks. The fictional Wiley team eventually succeeds to the point where they are able to debate Harvard University.

The movie explores social constructs in Texas during the Great Depression, from day-to-day insults African Americans endured to lynching. Also depicted is James L. Farmer, Jr., who, at 14 years old, was on Wiley’s debate team after completing high school.

Director: Denzel Washington

Writers: Robert Eisele (story & screenplay), Jeffrey Porro (story), Tony Scherman (inspired by the American Legacy article)

Stars: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams, Jurnee Smollett


Denzel WashingtonMelvin B. Tolson
Nate ParkerHenry Lowe
Jurnee SmollettSamantha Booke
Denzel WhitakerJames Farmer Jr.
Jermaine WilliamsHamilton Burgess
Forest WhitakerDr. James Farmer Sr.
Gina RaveraRuth Tolson
John HeardSheriff Dozier
Kimberly ElisePearl Farmer
Devyn A. TylerHelen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
Trenton McClain BoydNathaniel Farmer
Ritchie MontgomeryDeputy
Jackson WalkerPig Owner
Tim ParatiPig Farmer
Robert X. GolphinDunbar Reed
Justice LeakHarland Osbourne
Glen PowellHarvard Debater #1 (as Glen Powell Jr.)
Brad WatkinsHarvard Debater #2
Brian SmiarHarvard Dean
Damien LeakeWilson
Voltaire SterlingPaul Quinn Debater #1 (as Voltaire Rico Sterling)
Stephen RiderPaul Quinn Debater #2
Gordon DannielsPaul Quinn Debate Judge
Donny BoazOklahoma City College Debater #1
Samuel Elliott WhisnantOklahoma City College Debater #2 (as Sam Whisnant)
Bonnie JohnsonDr. Jennings
Charissa AllenBenita
Michael BeasleyTrudell
Gary MattisEnormous Man (as Gary Mathis)
George WilsonSamuel
Fahnlohnee R. HarrisClementine (as Fahnlohnee Harris)
Harold EvansWilliam Taylor (as Harold X. Evans)
J.D. EvermoreCaptain Wainwright
Sharon JonesLila
Kelvin PaytonJoseph
Southey BlantonWhite Labor Organizer
Michael MattisonWhite Sharecropper #1
Jeff BraunWhite Sharecropper #2
Milton R. GipsonPrairie View Professor
Frank RidleySecurity Guard
Jeremiah KisselRadio Announcer at Harvard Debate
Jack RadostaWhite Man at Lynching
Marcus Lyle BrownHoward Debater #1
Alvin Youngblood HartJuke Joint Musician #1 (as Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart)
Dom FlemonsJuke Joint Musician #2 (as Dominique Flemons)
Justin RobinsonJuke Joint Musician #3
Rhiannon GiddensJuke Joint Musician #4
Ahmad PowellFisk Professor
Michael C. ‘Mike’ AllenDeputy Texas Ranger (uncredited)
Razmig ArabianHarvard Student (uncredited)
Kevin BeardKlansman at Lynching (uncredited)
Ellen Becker-GrayFaculty at Harvard Debate (uncredited)
Chad BoldiniHarvard Debate Attendee (uncredited)
Matthew N. BourgeoisHarvard Scholar (uncredited)
Crystal Brown-TatumFemale Teacher / Dance Chaperone (uncredited)
Gio CastellanoHarvard Debate Attendee (uncredited)
Thomas CataloniSailor (uncredited)
Michael DeMelloDebate Observer (uncredited)
Roger Dillingham Jr.Upscale Traveler (uncredited)
Sal DiMinoReporter (uncredited)
Curtis EamesReporter (uncredited)
Chaz EcholsWiley College Student (uncredited)
Brian D. EvansHarvard Student (uncredited)
Ben FisherHarvard Student (uncredited)
Jaishon FisherNewspaper Boy (uncredited)
Jamai FisherKid at Train Station (uncredited)
Steve FlynnHarvard Dean (uncredited)
Hugh GuineyHarvard Student (uncredited)
Hevin HamptonBar Patron (uncredited)
Joel B. HaydenHarvard Professor (uncredited)
Patrick Mel HayesHarvard Alumni (uncredited)
Benjamin HealyHarvard Student (uncredited)
Chris KosiavelonHarvard Student (uncredited)
Kenneth LecompteShare Cropper and Grocer (uncredited)
Jimmy Lee Jr.Lyncher (uncredited)
Aqua LeeJuke Joint Couple (uncredited)
Christopher J. LongHarvard Student (uncredited)
Robert MasielloHarvard Alumni (uncredited)
Josh McBrideHarvard Student (uncredited)
Paul McGillicuddyHarvard Debate Attendee (uncredited)
Alex MilneShoe Shine Boy (uncredited)
Tarek MoussaHarvard Student (uncredited)
Jason MulcahyHarvard Student (uncredited)
Ed O’KeefeHarvard Scholar (uncredited)
Nefertara OzellaExtra (uncredited)
Giovanni PantaleoHavard Student (uncredited)
Cory PattWiley Student (uncredited)
James PaulRiot Starter (uncredited)
Jeannie PerrinLynching Participant (uncredited)
Todd PoudrierRadio Tech (uncredited)
Cyndy PowellHarvard debate audience (uncredited)
Breon PughWiley Debater (uncredited)
Alan ResnicHarvard Scholar (uncredited)
Robert M. SaundersHarvard Student (uncredited)
Cory Reed SmithHarvard Debate Attendee (uncredited)
Scott SousaHarvard Student (uncredited)
Michael StantonHarvard Professor (uncredited)
Heath StewartReserve Harvard Debater (uncredited)
Bill StinchcombLynch Mob (uncredited)
Ruth Mahala SullivanStudent (uncredited)

Sources: imdb & wikipedia

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