Though based on the true story of the debating team at Texas' Wiley College in the 1930s, the film directed and starred by Denzel Washington was said to be full of historical inaccuracies.
Denzel Washington's based on true story film, "The Great Debaters" has been harshly criticized for its blunders. Talks of the blunders surfaced after the college students the film are based on claimed that the film is full of historical inaccuracies, especially about Harvard's participation.
In the inspirational drama starred by Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker among others, it was told that Melvin Tolson, a debate coach, took a group of underdog students from a small, modest black college in the segregated South in East Texas to challenge and win over the reigning debate champions Harvard University in the national championship.
Reportedly, though the film that is directed and starred by Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey is based on the true story of the debating team at Texas' Wiley College in the 1930s and the team did beat the reigning champion, the actual champion at the time was not the team from Harvard. In fact, Harvard's participation is fictional. The Wiley team actually beat out the student debaters from the University of Southern California.
To Page Six, a knowledgeable source commented, "The Wiley team never wrote to Harvard, never debated Harvard, never beat Harvard." The source then noted, "And no Harvard administrator would have ever referred to the university as an all-white college since it had long been integrated."
To make matter worse, if seen from the history point of view, the Wiley team couldn't even have called themselves victors as they did in the movie because before World War II, blacks at the actual time were not truly considered part of college debating circles. However, to defend for the alterations he made, Washington explained his ground to the Harvard Crimson student newspaper stating, "We set the debate here because Harvard is the gold standard. Harvard just sounded better, to be quite honest."