American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Great Debaters" (2007)


Wiley College vs. Oklahoma City College

Resolved: Negroes Should be Admitted to State Universities

Audio mp3 delivered by Jurnee Smollett, Donny Boaz, Nate Parker, & Samuel Whisnant

Samantha Booke: Resolved: Negroes should be -- should be admitted --... Resolved: Negroes should be admitted to state universities. My -- My partner and I will prove that blocking a negro's admission to a state university is not only wrong, it is absurd. The negro people are not just a color in the American fabric. They are the thread that holds it all together. Consider the legal and -- and historical record: May 13th, 1865, Sergeant Crocker, a negro, is the last soldier to die in the civil war. 1918, the first U.S. soldiers decorated for bravery in France are negroes Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts. 1920, The New York Times announces that the "n" in "Negro" would hereafter be capitalized.

Oklahoma City College Debater #1: Force upon the South what they are not ready for would result in nothing but but more racial hatred. Dr. W. E. B. Dubois, he's perhaps the most eminent negro scholar in America. He comments, "It's a silly waste of money, time, and temper, to try and propel a powerful majority to do what they are determined not to do.

Henry Rowe: My opponent so conveniently chose to ignore the fact that W. E. B. Dubois is the first negro to receive a Ph.D. from a white college -- called Harvard.


Oklahoma City College Debater #1: Dr. Dubois, he adds, "It is impossible" --  impossible! -- "for a negro to receive a proper education at a white college.

Henry Rowe: The most eminent negro scholar in America is the product of an Ivy League education. You see, Dubois knows all too well the white man's resistance to change; but that's no reason to keep a black man out of any college. If someone didn't force upon the South something it wasn't ready for, I'd still be in chains, and Miss Booke here would be running from her own master.


Oklahoma City College Debater #2: I do admit it. It is true: Far too many whites are afflicted with the disease of racial hatred. And because of racism, it would be impossible for a negro to be happy at a Southern white college today. And if someone is unhappy, it is impossible to see how they could receive a proper education. Yes, a time will come when negroes and whites will walk on the same campus, and we will share the same classrooms; but, sadly, that day is not today.


  Samantha Booke: As long as schools are segregated, negroes will receive an education that is both separate and unequal. By Oklahoma's own reckoning, the state is currently spending five times more for the education of a white child than it is spending to educate a colored child. That means better text books for that [white] child than for that [negro] child. Oh, I say that's a shame. But my opponent says today is not the day for whites and coloreds to go to the same college, to share the same campus, to walk in the same classroom. Well, would you kindly tell me when is that day going to come? Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never?! No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality, is always -- is always -- right now!

Henrietta Bell, Member 1930 Wiley College Debate Team

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