The Great Debaters: Historically Inaccurate!

The Great Debaters: Historically Inaccurate!

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."


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    Aug 10, 2015

    This movie was great!!! What true story movie doesn't have a few things changed. The movie was wonderful and Mr. Washington is a brilliant actor and director. Not to mention thought provoker.

    Mar 07, 2013

    Let's remember that true history does not always make for a great-selling movie, according to Hollywood. If you want 100% facts, then do your own research. But for the sake of a movie, The Great Debaters was fine the way it was.

    May 09, 2012

    Its a brilliant movie, honestly before i read this article i had never heard of the University of Southern California. i WOULDNT CHANGE A TING BWT T

    Mar 30, 2010

    yes, it is a true story of a group of african american young adults who prevail against all odds

    Feb 14, 2010

    Are you serious? Are we really challenging the fact that ONE FACT was changed in this movie?? I believe it would serve all of us to focus on the message in the story which is (in case there are others, like the author of this article, who would rather spend your mental energy wallowing around in unnecessary details) is that even in the face of adversity, faith and hard work will prevail. Period.

    Golden Glamour
    Mar 25, 2009

    I believe the film is a total hollywood fabrication to sale tickets.Though I respect the production of a "Positive Black Movie"I think directors could have done a better job of staying true to the actual story line.

    Feb 21, 2009

    I think the message of civil disobedience and the history of oppression of blacks in America are more important than the "INACCURATE!" claim you carp on.

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