The Great Debaters Themes Essay

A black debate team competes with white schools during civil unrest in America. It is the mid-1930s and Professor Tolson assembles a black debate team at Wiley College. He trains them with the goal that they compete with white debate teams across the country to prove that they are just as good, maybe even better. The team is composed of Samantha, James (the youngest member and the son of another Wiley professor), Henry, and Hamilton. As the team competes across the country, they experience first-hand the injustice and terror of racism. They witness a lynch mob murder a black man and are deeply bothered by the incident. Prof. Tolson, who secretly engages in political activity deemed illegal in those days, also faces adversity. Despite such trials, the team fares well, to the point of being asked to compete against the leading team in the country, Harvard University. At the debate, James, initially a researcher, is given the chance to debate with Samantha, eventually winning the contest. The team then continues their winning streak for the next ten years.
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Best part of story, including ending: It's a harsh look at civil unrest in America in the 1930s, and it's appalling to watch that atrocious things such as lynching were commonplace during those years.

Best scene in story: It would have to be the Harvard debate, and we see young James step up to the plate.

Opinion about the main character: Professor Tolson is a good leader who inspires his students to live up to their potential. It's always refreshing to see characters like him who want to change the world, and they actually go out to do it.

Script Analysis of The Great Debaters

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of movie:    -   1930's-1950's Polit/Social/Race/Gender activism    -   YesPlotlet:    -   racism!

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   teacher/professor Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black american


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Deep South Misc setting    -   school

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   explicit references to deaths Sex/nudity in movie?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   kissing    -   touching of personal anatomy Any profanity?    -   Occasional swearing

Movies with storylines, themes & endings like The Great Debaters

Intruder In The Dust starring David Brian, Porter Hall, Elizabeth Patterson, Charles Kemper
Proud starring Ossie Davis, Albert Jones, Jeffrey Nash, Eric Laray Harvey
Sounder starring Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, Kevin Hooks, Eric Hooks, Taj Mahal, Yvonne Jarrell, James Best
Rabbit-Proof Fence starring Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Everlyn Sampi
The Color Purple starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey
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