The Great Debaters Script - Dialogue Transcript

Voila! Finally, the The Great Debaters script is here for all you fans of the Denzel Washington movie. This puppy is a transcript that was painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of the movie to get the dialogue. I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and all that jazz, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. At least you'll have some The Great Debaters quotes (or even a monologue or two) to annoy your coworkers with in the meantime, right?

And swing on back to Drew's Script-O-Rama afterwards -- because reading is good for your noodle. Better than Farmville, anyway.

The Great Debaters Script

 [fast gospel]

 My soul is a witness 

 Soul is a witness 

-  My soul is a witness 
-  Yeah, yeah 

-  Soul is a witness 
-  Oh, yeah 

-  Before l go 
-  Oh 

-  Before l go 
-  'Fore l go 

 Before l go, soul is a witness 

Heavenly Father, we come before Thee,

knee bent and body bowed

in the humblest way
that we know how.

Father, who controls
and knows all things,

both the living
and dying of all creatures.

Give us the strength and the wisdom
to do Thy work.

ln God's name we pray.

And all God's people say, ''Amen.''

-  My soul is a witness 
- Amen.

-  Water, wine 
-  So high 

-  Water, wine 
-  Wine 

 Water, wine, soul is a witness 

 Soul is a witness 

 Soul is a witness 

-  Soul 
-  Soul is a witness 

-  Soul 
-  Witness 

-  Witness 
-  Witness 

-  Witness 
-  Witness 

-  Witness 
-  Soul is a witness 

When Agave sobered up,

she looked down and saw
the head of her son Pentheus

- right there in her hands.
- She thought he was a wild animal.

That's how Dionysus got his revenge.

You a heathen, Henry.

You know what l got right here?

- What?
- Some of that very wine.

''When l was a child, l spake as a child.

''l understood as a child.

''l thought as a child.

''But when l became a man,

l put away all childish things.''

 [gospel continues]

-  Early one mornin' 
-  Early one mornin' 

-  Down the road 
-  Early one mornin' 

-  Early one mornin' 
-  Early one mornin' 

 Down the road 


Freshman class...

l believe we are the most privileged
people in America,

because we have
the most important job

in America:

the education of our young people.

 l was traveling 

 Partner too 

 Goin' down the road 

 Goin' down to say 

 My soul is a witness 

-  Souls are born 
-  Goin' home 

-  Soul is a witness 
-  Goin' home 

 Souls are born 

-  Soul is a witness 
-  Witness 

-  Before l go 
-  When l go 

-  Before l go 
-  Go 

[gasps] Trudell!

- Who the hell is he?
- Oh, he's just my husband.

l'm gonna cut your head off.

We must impress upon our young people

that there will be difficulties
that they face.

Come on, Trudell.
Come get this whuppin', boy.

- [Man] Get him down, Trudell.
- Scared, ain't ya?

Huh? You with the razor
and twice my size?

They must defeat them!

They must do what they have to do
in order to do what they want to do.

Come on, now.

Come on, baby!

Education is the only way out.


Come on, baby. Get up!
Get up, baby. Come on!

The way out of ignorance--

Like cuttin' people, huh, boy?

Want to cut people, Trudell, huh?

Get your hands off me!

The way out of darkness!


the glorious light.


Come on, now! Give it back!

- Give it back!
- ''To our precious Hamilton--''

This isn't funny. Come on.
Dunbar, give it back.

Who do you think you are?
Jesse Owens?

Have a seat.

''l am...

''the darker brother.

''They send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes.

''But l laugh, and l eat well,

''and l grow strong.

''Tomorrow, l will sit at the table
when company comes.

''Nobody'll dare say to me,

'''Eat in the kitchen' then.

''Besides, they'll see how beautiful l am,

''and be ashamed.

l, too, am America.''

Who wrote that?

Langston Hughes, 1924.


''Hating you shall be a game
played with cool hands.''

''Memory will lay its hands
upon your breast,

and you will understand my hatred.''

Gwendolyn Bennett wrote that.

She was born in 1902.


You see, in most states,

Negroes were denied birth certificates,

which means l can
lie about my age the rest of my life.


You think that's funny?

To be born...

without record.

Mr. Reed, hand these out.

l'm going to introduce you
to some new voices this semester.

There's a revolution going on.

ln the North. ln Harlem.

They're changing the way
Negroes in America think.

l'm talking about poets
like Hughes, Bennett,

Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen--

''Some are teethed on a silver spoon,

''with the stars strung up for a rattle.

''l cut my teeth
as a black raccoon--

...for implements of battle.''

Meet me after class.


What's a professor doing
in the middle of the night

dressed like a cotton-chopper?

What is a student doing
in the middle of the night

throwing his life away?

lt's funny. l thought
l was defending myself.


l remember you.

Couple of years ago.
Then you disappeared.

What happened?

l come and go whenever it suits me.

- Suspensions?
- Leaves of absence.

Why'd you come back?

School's the only place
you can read all day.

Except prison.

l want you to come by
my house tonight, 7:30.

- Corner of June and Campus.
- Why would l do that?

Holding tryouts for the debate team.

- You sure you want somebody like me?
- No.

That's why you're trying out.


June and Campus.


''Driven by the wind and tossed--''

Do well tonight, Junior.

Of the 360 students here at Wiley College,

only 45 of you were brave enough
to try out for the debate team.

Of that 45, only four
of you will remain standing

when the tryouts are over-- why?

Because debate is
blood sport. lt's combat.

But your weapons are words.

Come on in.

Now that Mr. Farmer
has joined us, we can begin.

Sit down, Mr. Farmer.

Not right there. Over there.

- Yes, sir.
- James. Right this way.

Good evening, Mrs. Tolson.

- Evening.
- Excuse me.

We're waiting for you, Mr. Farmer.

l'm going, sir.

Thank you, Mr. Farmer.
You smell very good, Mr. Farmer.

- Thank you, sir.
- You're very welcome.

Gentlemen and lady.

This is...

the hot spot.

You will enter it at your own risk.

Mr. Tolson, what about
the debaters from last year?

Don't ask a question you
already know the answer to.

Get up here. You'll be first.

Get right here. Hot spot.

Debate starts with a proposition.

With an idea-- ''Resolved:

Child labor should be regulated
by the federal government.''

The first debater argues
the affirmative.

Affirmative means
that you are for something.

Mr. Reed will argue the affirmative.

The second debater
argues the negative.

Negative means that you are what?


Brilliant, Mr. Burgess.

You shall argue
the affirmative, Mr. Reed. Go.

Well, sir, l'd begin with a quote
from the poet Cleghorn.

''The golf links lie so near the mill,

''that almost every day,

''the laboring children
can look out and--


 And watch the men at play 

ls that what you learned
from last year, Mr. Reed?

To start something,
and not finish it?

- ls it?
- No, sir.

Sit down.

Who's next? You? Stand up.

Stand up.

lt's getting late.
How much longer can you hide?

l'm not hiding, sir.
l transferred from my college

just to come here
and try out for your team.

l am deeply moved. What's your name?

Samantha Booke.

- Book?
- With an ''e.''

Arise, Miss Booke. With an ''e.''

lnto the hot spot,
Miss Booke with an ''e.''

You know, there's never been a female
on the debating team, ever.

Yes, sir. l know that.

What makes you think
you should be the first?

Because, sir, l am just as qualified as--

- Quit stammering, Miss Booke.
- ...anybody else here.

- My gender has nothing--
- ''Resolved:

Welfare discourages hard work.''

- You'll argue the negative.
- All right.

Welfare takes away a man's
strongest reason for working,

which is survival.

And that weakens the will of the poor.

How would you rebut that,
Miss Booke with an ''e''?

l would say it does not.

Most of the New Deal
goes to children, anyway,

and to the handicapped,
and to old people--

- ls that fact, or conjecture?
- lt is a fact.

- Speak up.
- lt is a fact.

- What's your source?
- The president.

- Of the United States?
- Yes, sir.

That's your primary source? You spoke
to President Roosevelt personally?

Of course not. l did not
speak to him personally,

but l listened to his Fireside Chat.

- Oh, a radio broadcast.
- Yes.

- Any other sources?
- Well--

Any other sources?

Yes, there are other sources.

Like that look in a mother's eyes
when she can't feed her kids.

Without welfare, Mr. Tolson,
people would be starving.

Who's starving, Miss Booke?

- The unemployed are starving.
- Mr. Burgess here.

He's unemployed.
Obviously, he's not starving.

l drew you in, Miss Booke.

You gave a faulty premise,
so your syllogism fell apart.

- ''Syllogism''?
- Your logic fell apart.

Major premise:
the unemployed are starving.

Minor premise:
Mr. Burgess is unemployed.

Conclusion: Mr. Burgess is starving.

Your major premise was
based on a faulty assumption.

Classic fallacy. Who's next?

You were right.

Tell us your name.

l'm Henry Lowe. With an ''e.''

All right, Mr. Lowe. l will name a subject.

You speak a few words--
a pertinent quote from world literature.

Go ahead.


''l heard the old, old men say,

all that is beautiful
drifts away, like the waters.''

Very good.

History. And name
the author this time.

''History is a nightmare,
from which l am trying to awake.''

James Joyce.


''l never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.''

D.H. Lawrence.

l love D.H. Lawrence. Have you ever read--

Mr. Farmer.

Yes, sir?

l have eyes in the back of my head
and ears on both sides. Stand up.

Tell me the irony in the name
''Bethlehem Steel Corporation.''

Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus,
Prince of Peace,

and Bethlehem Steel
makes weapons of war.

Very good. Sit down.


Who's next?

That went well.
How will we know how we did?

- [chattering]
- Samantha.


Tolson's tough, isn't he?

He sure is.

l'm James.

ls your father Dr. James Farmer?

Yes... yes, he is.

l'm taking theology from him,
and that man speaks in tongues.

French, Greek, Hebrew, Latin--

How many languages
does he speak?

- Seven languages.
- ''Seven languages.''

He must be the smartest man in Texas.

Well, that's not saying much.

So why do you want
to be on the team?

- l think it would be good training.
- For what?

Bein' a lawyer.

Lawyer? That's great.

You know how many Negro
women practice law in this state?

- Two.
- Exactly.

One of them's my aunt.

Well, look at you, Mr. Farmer.

How old are you, anyway?

l'll be 16...

in 21 months.

Young lady. James.
l just wanted to thank you.

For what?

Well, for your performance tonight.

l mean, how many other students
ever stand up to Tolson?

- l did.
- No.

You answered a question,
and l spouted a few quotes.

Miss Booke with an ''e,''

- she fought back.
- And lost!

But you didn't have to lose.

Why isn't a Fireside Chat
a legitimate source?

Because Tolson says so?

Nobody has better access
to those statistics than the president.

Now, if you'd have called Tolson on that,
you would have won.

l don't know. l'm sure that man
would have come up with something.

Good night, James.

Can you believe he's

- Good night, Samantha.
- 1 4 years old, and he's in college?

You are gifted, all of you.

So l want you to know that l chose
this team for balance,

and none of you should
take it as a failure...

as a denigration of your intellect.

Denigrate. There's a word for you.

From the Latin word ''niger,''
to defame, to blacken.

lt's always there, isn't it?
Even in the dictionary.

Even in the speech
of a Negro professor.

Somehow, ''black'' is always
equated with failure.

Well, write your own dictionary.

And mark this as a new beginning,

whether you make the team or not.

The Wiley College Forensics
Society of 1935-1936 is as follows:

The debaters...

will be Mr. Hamilton Burgess
from last year's team--

- Yea!
- Sit down, Mr. Burgess.

Mr. Henry Lowe.

Our alternates.

Miss Samantha Booke. With an ''e.''

And finally--

Junior, slow down.

- Where's Dad?
- Quiet. He's writing a lecture.

- Dad.
- Junior.

What is the greatest
weakness of man?

Not believing? Doubt?

That's it. Thank you, Junior.

Matthew 1 4:31 .

- That will be the lesson.
- Dad.

''O you of little faith,
why do you doubt me?''


What is it, son?

l made the debate team.

Well, congratulations.

And who is on your team?

Um, there's four of us.
l'm one of the alternates.

Who's ahead of you?

Hamilton Burgess and Henry Lowe.

And the other alternate's
Samantha Booke.

There's a girl?

She wants to be a lawyer.

- A lawyer?
- She's very intelligent.

ls she pretty?

l don't know.
l never really noticed.

Because extracurricular activities
like the debate team are fine,

but you must not take
your eye off the ball, son.

- Yes, sir.
- Hmph.

So what do we do here?

We do what we have to do,
so we can do what we want to do.

What do you have to do right now?

- My homework.
- So get to it.

Yes, sir.

 [Woman singing opera]

My daddy owns a grocery store
that has apples, bananas, cookies,

doughnuts, eggs, figs,

and ''gonzola'' beans.

Right. What's a gonzola bean?

- [Dr. Farmer] Hogwash!
- Hogwash!

''Gonzola'' bean?

Ready, set, go!

- Apricots, uh--
- Hogwash.

What, no apricots?

Look out!

[switches off motor]

What was that?

l'm not sure.


Sit down.

- You stay put.
- [barking continues]

Be still.

What is it?

lt's a pig.

- Hit a pig.
- [screen door slams]

Shut up, dog!

Junior, get in the car.

What the hell happened to my hog?

Sorry about that.
Came out of nowhere.

l didn't see it coming.

You done killed my hog, boy.

Truly sorry. Gladly pay you for it.

How much--
How much you want?

lt's gonna cost you $25.

Only have a few bucks on me
right now, but l can--

l do have a check.

My monthly check,
for Wiley College in Marshall.

lt's for $1 7.36.

You may have that.

l will endorse that over to you.

You'll do what?

l will sign the check over to you.

Well, let me see it.

lt's in the car, with my wife.

Gonna walk to the car now.

Junior, get in the car.

Give me that salary check, Pearl.

We need that money, James.

Just give me the check.

Go on.

His wife has it.

[Mother, whispering]
l thought it was in here.

[Dr. Farmer]
Just relax. lt's all right.

lt's in here. You'll find it.

Here it is.

Here it is.

That check better be good, boy.

lt's good.

Well, pick it up!

Here it is.

Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Where the hell do you think you're going?

You got to help us
get this hog in my truck.

Come on. Grab the tail end of that, boy.

All right, on three.

One, two, three!

Town niggers. They think
they're too good to get their hands dirty.

- Dad--
- l told you to get in the car.

When l tell you to do
something, Junior, you do it.

Who's the judge?

The judge is God.

Why is he God?

Because he decides
who wins or loses,

not my opponent.

Who is your opponent?

He doesn't exist.

Why does he not exist?

He's merely a dissenting voice
to the truth l speak.

Who's the judge?

- The judge is God!
- The judge is God!

Why is he God?

Because he decides who wins or loses,
not my opponent!

Who is your opponent?

He doesn't exist!

Why doesn't he exist?

Because he is merely a dissenting voice
to the truth l speak!


Who's the judge?

The judge is God!

Why is he God?

Because he decides who wins or loses,
not my opponent!

Who's your opponent?

He doesn't exist!

Why does he not exist?

Because he is merely a dissenting voice
to the truth l speak!

Who's the judge?

The judge is God!


The judge is God!

Why is he God?

Because he decides who wins or loses,
not my opponent!

Who's your opponent?

He doesn't exist!

Why does he not exist?

Because he is merely a dissenting voice
to the truth l speak!

Speak the truth!

Speak the truth!

Yes, sir, l do like to talk.

ls that a virtue or a vice?

Well, l have to admit l've always wanted
to be the quiet, mysterious type,

only l couldn't keep
my mouth shut long enough.

Would you punch yourself
in a street fight, Mr. Burgess?

No, sir.

Then don't punch yourself in a word fight.

You don't have to make fun of yourself.

Use your humor against your opponent.

Mr. Farmer!

Yes, sir.

Happy Mr. Farmer.

Tell us one thing we don't
know about your father.

He was the first Negro Ph.--

One thing we don't know
about your father, Mr. Farmer.

He walked from Florida to Massachusetts
to go to college at Boston University.

He graduated magna cum laude.

Mr. Lowe!

Tell us about your father.

Why don't you tell us something
about your father?

We're trying to get
to know each other, Mr. Lowe.

l was trying to get
to know you, Mr. Tolson.

l'm not the one on the debate team.

Are we not engaged
in a debate right now?

All right.

l'll take the affirmative.

Take the meanest...
most restless nigger,

strip him of his clothes

in front of the remaining male niggers,
female niggers,

and nigger infants.

Tar and feather him.

Tie each leg to a horse
facing an opposite direction,

set him on fire,

and beat both horses
until they tear him apart

in front of the male,
female, and nigger infants.

Bullwhip and beat
the remaining nigger males

within an inch of their life.

Do not kill them, but put
the fear of God in them,

for they can be useful for future breeding.

Anybody know
who Willie Lynch was?

Anybody? Raise your hand.

No one?

He was a vicious slave owner
in the West lndies.

The slave-masters
in the colony of Virginia

were having trouble
controlling their slaves,

so they sent for Mr. Lynch
to teach them his methods.

The word ''lynching''
came from his last name.

His methods were very simple,
but they were diabolical.

Keep the slave physically strong
but psychologically weak

and dependent on the slave master.

Keep the body, take the mind.

l...and every other
professor on this campus

are here to help you...

to find, take back,

and keep your righteous mind...

because obviously you have lost it.

That's all you need to know about me,
Mr. Lowe.

Class dismissed.

 [big band]


[no audible dialogue]

 [song ends]

 [slow jazz]

Here you go, honey.

Thank you.

Want to dance?


Come on.

You're a good dancer.

Thank you. l--

l practice in my room.

Keep at it.

Excuse me.

Your punch.

- Thank you.
- Mm-hmm.

l guess l better go
get me some punch.

Here, you can have mine if you want.

lt's good.

All right?

You know l can take you to a place

that plays real music, right?

l'm not leaving here, Henry.

Just for a spell.

l'll bring you right back.

And what would my chaperone say?

We'll be back before she
ever knows you're gone.

Mm-mm, mm-mm, mm-mm.

What's the matter? You afraid?

What's the matter?

You afraid?

Excuse me.


Mr. Tolson?

Mr. Tolson!

 [twanging blues guitar intro]



[glass breaks, laughter]

 l remember down
on block number 9 

 Couldn't hear nothin'
but them old convicts whine 

 Singin' ''How long 

 Before l can change my clothes?'' 

lt's time. Let's go.

...break your back all day.

[horse sputters]

And it's not right
when they lie to the government

and tell them that sharecroppers
are just wage earners

so they don't have to split
their farmer's subsidies with you.

And that's why
the Southern Tenant Farmers Union

wants you to organize:

to make things right.

How? Strike?

Hell, they'll just bring in the Mexicans.

We'll organize them, too.

Yeah, so they can shoot us all down:
white, colored, and Mexican.

That's exactly what they
want you to believe.

The farm bosses
want you to believe they'll make war.

They won't. They may be fools,
but they're smart businessmen.

And once we're organized,

they'll see even guns can't stop us.

Stopped them in Elaine.

Why don't you talk about that?

About how they killed
a hundred colored sharecroppers

for trying to organize.

That was 1919, friend.

And that was my daddy
they gunned down, friend.

We're sorry about that.

But those men stood alone.

That's my point.

This is 1935.

We've got the National
Labor Relations Board.

We've got the AF of L.

You ain't got shit!

He ain't got shit!

[all talking at once]

[trucks approaching]

Here they come!
Here they come!

Get the lights! Everybody get down!

Get down. Shh!


[all shouting]


Come on!

Let's get out of here!

This way! This way! This way!

Come on!


Come on. Come on!

Come on!

All right. All right.


What are you doing out here? Huh?

l saw you-- l was
walking by your house,

and l saw you dressed funny.

l'm dressed like them, son.

You think they'd listen to me
if l was wearing a tuxedo? Huh?

No, sir.

Listen to me.

You listening?

You cannot tell anybody
what you saw tonight.

You understand?

Not even my wife
knows about this.

l won't tell anybody, l promise.

l promise on a stack of Bibles--


... l won't tell anybody.

Come on.


Are you just going to stand there?

No, sir.

Sorry l'm late.

You're sorry?

lt's 1 :00 in the morning.

l've been looking everywhere for you.

l went to Mr. Tolson's
house after the dance.

l thought you might have done that.

That's why l went over there.

And l talked to Ruth.

She said Tolson was gone
and that you weren't there.

So l'm going to give you another chance.

Where were you?

l can't tell you, sir.

Good Lord, boy.

We've been worried to death about you.


where were you?

l can't tell you, sir.

Why not?

l don't know.

''l don't know.''

''l don't know'' is not
an acceptable answer, Junior.


Silence is not an option, either.

Son, you been drinking?


Because you must've been drinking
coming up in my house

talking about you don't want to tell me
where you been at 1 :30 in the morning?

Baby, tell me, what's the matter?

Mom, nothing's the matter.

Something's the matter!

Something is wrong!

Were you with that girl?

- You were with that girl.
- No.

Because you're 1 4 years old, Junior.

You've got plenty of time for girls later.

l wasn't with Samantha.


Then where were you?

Where were you, honey?

You don't want to talk?


But you're not leaving this house.

What do you mean?

Just what l said.

You're not leaving this house
until you tell me the truth!

What about school?

Don't go questioning
what l just said, boy!

Mom, what about school?

And don't raise your voice!

l'm not raising my voice!

You raising your voice in the house?

Apologize to your father.

l'm not raising my voice!

You get a job, pay your own way?

You're a man now?

l'm not raising my voice!

Just apologize!

l didn't say anything!

Why should l apologize?

Like you apologized to that pig farmer?

What did you say, boy?

You go to your room.

Okay, Junior--

l'm not going to be weak on this, Pearl.

l know.

l can't allow my son to be corrupted.

You're right.

Let's just go to bed.

l'll take him to school in the morning.

All right?

All right.

l'm going to be honest with you, boys.

l'm not well.

l'm not well at all this morning.

l'm sure sorry to hear that, sir.

You look well to me.

Don't he look well, Sam?

Yes, sir. He looks real good.

Now, we got some white fellas
from up north come into our town.

They're stirring up trouble
between our coloreds and our whites.

They say that we need to make a union:

the sharecroppers
and the workers all together,

colored and white.

They need to make a union?

How do you boys feel about that?

l don't know, sir.

l really ain't thought much about that.

Well, it's a bad idea.

lt's a bad idea, take my word for it.

Yes, sir.

And they say that there was
some kind of secret meeting

last night down near the lake.

Now, do you boys know about that?

No, sir.

You don't know about that?

- Samuel?
- No, sir.

- You didn't hear about that?
- No, sir.

- You swear to me?
- Yes, sir.

Yes, sir, l swear.

All right, then.

See you later.

Our first debate

is one week from today.

- One week?
- That's right.

l thought Prairie View was first.

Prairie View is tough,
so l thought we needed a warm-up.

With the best Negro college in the state?

That's right, Mr. Burgess.

Does that frighten you?

Yes, sir.

One week's not enough time
to write our arguments.

You do the research.
l'll write the arguments.

Wait. You--

You write the arguments?

And you deliver them, Mr. Lowe.

What the hell do l look like, a mailman?

Hell is where you're headed
if you question me again.

ln theory, you look like a student.

So what you're saying
is l'm not capable.

lt's not a matter of competence.

lt's a matter of experience.

How do l know you write--

l write the arguments!

That's the way it's been!

That's the way it's going to be!

Any more questions?

One week.

l bring to you

our first affirmative debater:

from Paul Quinn College,
Otheree Hubbard.

Resolved: unemployment
relief should be ended

when the Depression ends.

lf the Depression ends.

l traveled back through history to 1536,

when the first Poor Laws
of England were mandated.

ln those days, the dole--
or welfare, as we call it--

was funded by voluntary contributions.

But, as time passed,

the English devised the Allowance System,

the first unemployment relief,

only now it was paid
with involuntary contributions,

more commonly known as taxes.

[audience laughs]

The Allowance System was a disaster.

The only real unemployment relief
is to give a man a job.

But to do that, you have
to give the economy life,

not tax it to death.

When capitalism was young,

the old puritanical concept of duty

was, ''He who does not work
shall not eat.''

That made sense
when there was more work

than men willing to do it.

But those days are gone.

Now there are millions
who want to work,

but find themselves
standing in breadlines.

Now, should they not eat
because there are no jobs?

People, today we need
a new concept of duty:

the right of the individual
to demand from society

just as much as he gives to society.

We clutch at anything that
even looks like a solution.

$60 million a month for public relief?

Pay it out if it'll sweep
the hoboes off the streets.

One seventh of the population
of the United States on welfare.

Fine, as long as it ends our misery.

A nation as desperate as this
is a danger to itself.

- [applause]
- [audience member] That's right.


a Roman general brought peace
to a rebellious province...

by killing all its citizens.

Even his fellow Romans
were shocked.

One of them wrote,

''Solitudinem faciunt,
pacem appellant, ''

which means ''They create desolation
and call it peace.''

Now, for all their facts and figures,

the Paul Quinn debaters would also
create desolation and call it peace.

They would allow the unemployed to die
so the economy can live.


A brilliant young woman l know

was asked once to support her argument
in favor of social welfare.

She named the most powerful source

the look in a mother's face
when she cannot feed her children.

Can you look that hungry
child in the eyes?

See the blood on his feet

from walking barefoot
in the cotton fields?

Or do you ask his baby sister
with her belly swollen from hunger

if she cares about
her daddy's work ethic?


He's good.

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

 Had a little girl 

 She's little and low 

 She used to love me 

 But she don't no more 

 You got to step it up and go, yeah 

 Yeah, and go 

The only thing that matters
is that big fish eat little fish,

and the color of the fish
does not count!

 ...step it up and go 

lf the state of Mississippi
would have turned their heads

each and every time
a Negro was lynched,

shouldn't the federal government intervene?

 Yeah, and go 

 Well, you can't stand pat 

 l declare you got
to step it up and go 

 Front door shut, back door, too 

 Blinds pulled down, whatcha gonna do? 

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

 Well, you can't stand pat 

 l declare you got to step it up and go 

 Got a little girl 

 Her name is Ball 

 Gave a little bit, but she took it all 

 You got to step it up and go now 

 Yeah, go 

And the winner is...

 l declare you got
to step it up and go now 

Wiley College!

 Me and my baby
walkin' down the street 

 Tellin' everybody
'bout the chief of police 

 You got to step it up and go now 

 Yeah, and go 

 Well, you can't stand pat 

 l declare you got
to step it up and go 

 lf you see my woman,
tell her ''Hurry home'' 

 Ain't had no lovin'
since she been gone 

 You got to step it up and go now 

Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley! Wiley!

 Well, you can't stand pat 

 l declare you got
to step it up and go 

 Well, l'll sing this verse 

 Ain't gonna sing no more 

 Hear my gal call... 

That's right, Captain.

l think l've got the ringleader.

Uh, all right,
if that's what you want.

Yeah. Okey-dokey, then.



Who was that?

Captain Wainwright.

Texas Rangers?


He wants me to, uh, hold off
on picking this fella up

until him and his boys get up here.

Shit. Wants to get
his picture in the paper.


We do all the work,
they get all the glory.



l guess that's just the way the world is.

lsn't that right, Samuel?

l have an announcement
to make. Excuse me.

Recently, l-- uh, we--


...sent some letters
to some major universities.

Told them all about us, our team,

what we've been doing,

and, uh, yesterday
we got a response.

From Oklahoma City University.

Aren't they--?

Anglo-Saxon? Yes. Yes.

We'll be the first Negro college in America--

well, one of the first Negro
colleges in America--

to ever debate a white college.

All right!

University of Oklahoma!

Not University of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City University.

The debate will take place
at an off-campus site.

Wait. An off-campus site? Why?

Because sometimes, Mr. Lowe,

you have to take things
one step at a time.

So what you're saying is
the crackers in Oklahoma

ain't gonna let us on their campus.

No, what l'm saying is you have to take
things one step at a time.

This is a great opportunity.

Thank you very much.

Master is going to give us
a crumb off his plate, huh?

What? Wha--

l think Lowe here is afraid.

What am l afraid of, James?

l think you're afraid
to debate white people.

- Anglo-Saxons.
- Anglo-Saxons.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Tolson, let me debate.

l mean, l'll debate
Anglo-Saxons anywhere:

in a dark alley, with no light,

with a candle lit and people
chasing you down with guns.

Hell, l'll debate Anglo-Saxons anywhere.

l ain't afraid.

l am.


Mr. Tolson, when l came here today,

l saw the sheriff outside watching your house.

What's going on?

Maybe you should ask the sheriff.

l've been hearing a lot of rumors
about what you're doing.

My dad just called the Dean last week

and asked, ''What is
a communist doing

teaching at a good Methodist college?''

My politics are my business,
Mr. Burgess,

and l promise you that they
will not endanger the team.

But, sir, it is being endangered.

l came to Wiley College
to be educated, not investigated.

l understand that.

l don't want to be dragged into anything.

- You're not--
- lf my parents find--

l'm sorry.

Mr. Tolson, please.

Just tell me you're not
a communist. Otherwise--

Otherwise what?

Otherwise what?

My father says l have to quit.

Nobody wants that.

Then tell me.

As l said, my politics are my business.

l guess l have to resign.

Mrs. Tolson, thank you
for a wonderful dinner.

You're welcome, Ham.

Good luck in Oklahoma, y'all.

l know you'll win.

All right. Well,

if anybody else wants to quit, l'll understand.


Negroes should be--

should be admitted--

l can't hear you!

Speak up!


Negroes should be admitted
to state universities.

My partner and l 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 historical record.

May 13, 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.

To force upon the South
what they are not ready for

would result in nothing
but more racial hatred.

[audience member]

Dr. W.E.B. DuBois--

he's perhaps the most eminent
Negro scholar in America.

He comments...

''lt's a silly waste
of money, time, and temper

''to try and compel a powerful majority

to do what they are
determined not to do.''

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.

Dr. DuBois, he adds,

''lt is impossible--
impossible for a Negro

to receive a proper education
at a white college.''

The most eminent
Negro scholar in America

is the product of
an lvy 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.

lf someone didn't force upon the South
something it wasn't ready for,

l'd still be in chains,

and Miss Booke here would be
running from her old Master!


l do admit it.

lt 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.

That's true.

And if someone is unhappy,

it is impossible to see how they could
receive a proper education.

That's right.

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.

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 textbooks
for that child than for that child.

Oh, l 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 gonna come?

ls it gonna come tomorrow?
ls it gonna come next week?

ln a hundred years?


No, the time for justice,

the time for freedom,
and the time for equality

is always, is always, right now!

Thank you.


What is this?

l told you it was holy wine.

Put hair on your chest.

lf you say so.

Good, ain't it?


You know where the bathroom
is if you need it.


[general chatter]

And my weapons were words.

l didn't need a gun. l didn't need a knife.

You see--

Meet me outside in five minutes.

And then what?

Yes, l did, honey,

and nobody knows that
better than you know.

Oh, l'm fine.

How are you doing, Pearl?


Yes, l do. Where's your husband?

- He's in the study.
- Okay.

Dr. Farmer.

Congratulations, Melvin.

Thank you.

You've put us on the map.

Well, your son is doing a great job.

His research is impeccable.

That's good to hear.
That's good to hear.

Listen, there are people around town

who aren't very happy
with your off-campus activities.

They're calling you a radical.

ln fact, l wouldn't be a bit surprised

to find out one morning
when l woke up

that you were strung up to a tree.

They'd have to catch me first.

This is serious, Melvin.

Very serious.

A hungry Negro steals
a chicken, he goes to jail.

A rich businessman steals
bonds, he goes to Congress.

l think that's wrong.

Now, if that makes me a radical,
a socialist, a communist, so be it.

Amen-- Amen on that.

- Jesus was a radical.
- Careful.

Yes, He was. Jesus was a radical.

Mental institutions are filled with people

who have confused themselves
with Jesus Christ.

l'm not confused.

You're convinced you're Jesus Christ now?

- No.
- You're convinced you're Jesus Christ?

You know what words do.

- Okay.
- Come on now.


Don't want to confuse
yourself with Jesus Christ.

l'm not confused. l'm convinced.

l'm not, uh, l'm not judging you.

l'm just concerned
about your methods.

What methods?

James was there that night, wasn't he?

He was not with me.

ls he involved in this?

Of course not, James.

l've done everything in my power
to keep him out of this.

- To keep him out?
- Yes.

Are you telling me
he wants to be involved?

Maybe this is something
you should discuss with him.

l'm discussing it with you right now,

and l don't feel like l'm getting
a straight answer.

You're getting a straight answer.

l think that you were
there with him that night.

He was not with me.

He's a 1 4-year-old boy.

l understand that.

l'll do whatever l have to do
to protect him.

ls anybody thirsty?

Here you are.

Thank you. Thank you, Ruth.

- You're welcome.
- Mm-hmm.


Ruth, this is a fine party.

- Thank you.
- Mm-hmm.

l think it's time
for some sweet potato pie.


l'll help you with that.

Not the time to talk about it.


Thank you.

lt's so beautiful out here.



l was born near here,
a little further up the lake near Jefferson.

l've been coming here
since l was a little boy.

Your parents still live around here?

No, no. They're, uh, they're gone.

My grandparents raised me.

And my Pah-Pah, he, uh,

spent his life doing
the levees around here--

for free, of course.

- Mm. He was a slave?
- Mm-hmm.

My grandma was always
telling me to be good

or else the Confederates would rise up
out of Marshall Cemetery and get me.



l've just never seen
this side of you before.

What side?

You seem so calm,

so peaceful.

lt's what the lake does to me.

l'm happy when l'm out here,
you know?

lt's funny.

Part of me wants to just stay out here
by the lake, you know?

Read books all day and hunt
and fish when l get hungry.

And the other part
wants to go everywhere,

you know, see everything.

l want to go to New Orleans and New York
and Chicago and even San Francisco.

l just want to go...

walking down the road and...

just disappear.

Well, maybe you could
take me with you.

 [''When the Saints
Come Marching ln'']

- Lord.
- What?

lt's the school band,
and they're outside.

What? Jesus!

l thought you said nobody
ever comes around here.

Nobody ever does
come here, Samantha.

- [knock on door]
- Hold on! Hold on!

Henry, come on!



Get dressed.

What's going on?

We're gonna go get
Mr. Tolson and Samantha,

head back to the campus,
and have a pep rally.

Come on, get dressed.

You know what?
You go get Tolson,

and l'll meet up with y'all later on campus.

Come on, Lowe.

You know it's going to be fun.

l guess l'll tell them
you're going to join us later?

He's going to join us later.

He just has to clean
his house, that's all.


Great news. Great news.
Great news!

My phone has been ringing off the hook.

University of Michigan
wants to debate us.

So does SMU. So does Georgia.

Where's Mr. Lowe?

When do l get to debate?

Sooner than you think, James.

Sooner than you think.


When you're ready.

l'm ready now.

Mr. Tolson, l do not mind if James--

What's wrong?

Maybe l'm tired of this.

Of what?

Of watching other people debate.

When am l going to get
a chance to prove myself?

You're our best researcher, James.

We could not do this without you.

You do plenty without me.

Excuse me.

- James!
- What?

James, you wait!

That was so mean
what you said in there.

All right, uh, look,

l don't want to lose your friendship.

How can you lose something
that you never had?

You were never my friend?

Maybe l don't want
to just be your friend.

Maybe it hurts me
to be your friend.

- What's going on?
- What's going on?

[all murmuring]

Grab his hands.

Mr. Tolson!

Where is he?

Calm down, Henry.

Have you seen him?

No, they won't let us.

They didn't do nothing to you, did they?

- No, we're fine.
- Deputy,

l'm Dr. James Farmer
of Wiley College.

This is William Taylor,
Mr. Tolson's attorney.

And this is his wife Ruth.


l'd like to see my client, please.


Sheriff Dozier. Dr. James Farmer--

Hello, William. How you doing today?

Fine, sir, thank you. And you?

Oh, not too bad, not too bad.

Me and William, we go way back.

l knew William when l was a boy.

Could l see my client now, Sheriff?

Your client?

Well, the fact of the business
is, William,

your client is kind of busy right now.

Busy doing what?

Sheriff. Sheriff.

We have a situation.

[shouting outside]

Get some of your boys out there.

All right, men.

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

Let him go! Let him go!

They with you?

That's right.

See? This is what happens to a town
when you let the unions in.

Starts trouble.

People get all riled up about nothing.

One of them's liable to get hurt,
if you catch my drift.

Sheriff, since it's clear

that you have no evidence
to arrest Mr. Tolson,

l suggest you let him go.

You suggest it?

Who the hell are you?

Couple of months ago,

there was a raid
on Floyd Tillman's barn.

lt was a peaceful and lawful
gathering of sharecroppers

who were brutally attacked
by a gang of violent vigilantes.

Now, witnesses say
that you were there.

lf you led that raid, Sheriff,

you're the one who broke
the law, not Tolson.

Are you threatening me, boy?

No, sir.

l wouldn't do that.

But l cannot speak
for those people outside.

An unjust law is no law at all.

What does that mean?

A mass slaughter

of citizens, both white and colored,

by Texas Rangers?

ls that really what you want
as the Sheriff of this county?

Now, if you let Tolson go home,

l believe--

l believe that these folks outside,
they'll go home as well.


That pig wasn't worth $25.


You owe my father some money.

Have a seat, Mr. Farmer.

Oh, Lord.


SMU has cancelled.

University of Georgia sounds
like they will follow suit.


l've been blacklisted.

They're talking about censuring me.

Dean Clay and the board
have asked me

to stop working with
the sharecroppers, or else.

They say that it is not my fight.

So...things are bad.

My academic career's in jeopardy.

My debate team has nowhere to go.

Anyone know who Antaeus was?

Sure. He was a gigantic
wrestler in Greek mythology.

His mother was, uh, Gaea,
the goddess of Earth,

and, uh, l mean, he was unbeatable

because anytime someone
threw him down to the Earth,

it would make him stronger.

That's correct.

lt would make him stronger.

Defeat would make him stronger.

You are my students.
l am your teacher.

l think that's a sacred trust.

So what do l say to you now?

Quit because the Dean says so?

Because the sheriff says so?

Because the Texas Rangers say so?


l am diametrically opposed to that.

My message to you is to never quit.

We are not quitting.


What do you want us to do?

Debate Harvard.

- Harvard?
- Harvard University.

They're the reigning
national champions.

lf we defeat them, we defeat the best.

Mr. Tolson, sir, with all due respect,

um, Harvard ain't going to debate us,

not little old Wiley College
in Marshall, Texas.

They know who we are, Henry.

l've been writing them letters,
sending them articles.

But how do we get a letter back?

By continuing to win.

Dr. Farmer has informed me

that Howard University is going to be
at Prairie View next week.

We annihilated Fisk.

lf we eliminate Howard,
we will have beaten

the two best Negro colleges in America,

and l can guarantee you
that l will see to it

that Harvard does not ignore that.

All right?


 You guys, scoodle um skoo 

 Oh, baby, let's scoodle um skoo 

 Come on, Mama,
and scoodle um skoo 

 Scoodle um scoodle um,
and scoodle um skoo 

Just look for it on there.

You see it on there?

l've been looking the whole time.

Prairie View, Texas. The 127.

You show me where to look
because it's not on--

127 near Waxahachie.

lt's not there.

lt's there. You just can't find it.

l see 2, and l see 7.

Right. Now look for a 1 in front of it,
and you got it.

[Henry laughs]

- After 126--
- Okay.

Before 128.

l really don't think--

You don't see it.

When did you get this map?

What are you doing?

l'm gonna cut him down.

Get back in the car. Shut the door.

Nobody move.

Just get down.

Get down, get down.

Get down, too. You get down, too.

There's niggers in that car!

Come on, come on!

Get out of the car!

Get out of that car!

Stop that car right now!

[lynch mob shouting]

All right. Everybody sit tight,

and, uh...

l'll get the keys.

How you doing, Miss Becker?

l'm fine. You all right?

Yes, ma'am.

l got your rooms all ready.

- Thank you.
- [door closes]




[car stops]



They ain't going to wake up.

Come on.


[woman laughing]


See you.

All right. Be good, all right?

Hey, baby. How you doing?

Why are you still up?
You waiting on me?

What's the matter, baby?
Come on!



Shut up. Let's go.

Hey, preacher boy.

Shut up. Let's go.

Come on.

Where are we going?

Back to our room.

Got him, Mr. Tolson.

 They come from Shevelstown 


 Devil knocked my daddy down 

-  Run, nigger, run 
- Shh!

 Master's gonna get you 

-  Run-- 
- Shh!

Okay. Just sit-- sit--

Not in that bed, though. Get up.

Come here.

Give me a hug.



 Look down yonder, what do l see? 

 Great big nigger
hangin' from a tree 

 Run, nigger, run 

You're worthless.


You think you're the only one hurting?



Okay, l'm sorry...for everything.

For, uh, for drinkin', yeah,

l apologize.

l'm not talking about me.

You're right.

l'm gonna go talk to her.

No, no, you won't, Lowe.

She doesn't need
to see you like this, okay?

l'm just going to talk to her.

Leave me alone.


Calm down, boy!

Stop! Stop!

l'm not playing with you.

Calm-- Calm down!

You crazy?

You're never gonna forget what you saw
out there, do you understand?

You're never gonna forget
what you saw out there.

Hanging's the easiest
part of it sometimes.

Sometimes they cut
the little fingers off,

your toes, your nose, your ears.

Sometimes they cut
your privates off.

Sometimes they skin you alive.

You'll never be able to forget.


What do you think he did?

He didn't have to do nothing, James!

He didn't have to do nothing!

ln Texas they lynch Negroes!

Do you understand?

So it doesn't matter
how good we are, does it?

What are you talk-- What?

This is all useless.

What are you talking about?

l mean we're just a bunch of Negroes

debating each other
on subjects we all agree on.

Now, James, don't talk like that, all right?

- Why not?
- Because you can't!

Not you.

[liquid gurgles]

Bye! God bless you!

Where's Samantha?

She's not going with us.

Why not?

Why do you think?

l took her to the bus station.

She wanted to go back to school.

You wanted your chance.

This is it.


But how can any Negro

defend the punishment of prison

when he's seen so much oppression
in his own life?



Because crime itself
is a form of oppression,

and Negroes fall victim
to more violent crime

than any other race in America.


For us,

prison not only offers protection,
but retribution.

[audience member]
Yes, indeed!

And for the criminal, it is a dark gift:

the hardship that introduces
a man to himself,

that rouses his passion
for freedom--

[audience member]
Yes, sir!

...his hope for redemption!

Oh, yeah!

[loud applause]

Our next debater from Wiley College,

Mr. James Farmer, Junior.

Mr. Farmer?









We lost.

Oh. l'm sorry.

Uh, this came.


Wonder what it says.

Go on and open it and read it.

- Looks like somebody opened it already.
- Not me.

You didn't open it already?


You are not a good liar.

Out loud.

''Dear Mr. Tolson,

''thank you for informing us

''about your historic victory
over Oklahoma City.

''l'm sure you realize
our season is nearly over,

''but today we received another letter
from Wiley College

written by Mr. Henry Lowe''?


With an ''e''?

''He told us from a student's perspective

about your''-- ahem--
''about your undefeated season.''

Well, we're not undefeated anymore.

Don't matter.

''We wish to extend an invitation to--''

''We wish to extend an invitation

''to debate Harvard Crimson
here in Cambridge.

Let us know if this is agreeable to you.''


Don't you tell anybody.


No, you don't have to thank me.

l just wanted to show you
l could write, too.

That's good. Thank you.

But you could do me a favor.

What's that?

Keep Samantha on the team.

Why would l do that?

Mr. Tolson, it was a rough night.

Yes, it was, Mr. Lowe, for all of us.

And she walked out on us
at the last minute.

No, sir. She did not walk out on us.

She walked out on me.

lt's good tea.

Capitalism is immoral.

We will be arguing the affirmative.

To a bunch of Wall Street bankers.

[knock on door]

Mr. Tolson, l owe you
and my teammates--

You're late. Come in. Sit down.

Samantha, l am not--


 [''Wiley College Fight Song'']

Okay, you got macaroni
and cheese, fried chicken,

black-eyed peas for good luck,

red beans and rice,
corn bread, candied yams.

l put some peach cobbler in there, too,

and some bread pudding.

l know you don't like bread pudding,
but l put it in there anyway.

Thank you, Mom.


Good luck, son.


Yes, Jim.

You give Boston my regards.

You hear?

Yes, sir.


Come on! Train's leaving.


- Bye, Mom.
- Bye-bye.

l love you.

Bye, sis.

Love you!

Love you, too.

[bell rings]

All aboard leaving for Texarkana, Little Rock,

St. Louis, and all points north!

All aboard!

l'm not going with you.


l cannot leave this state.

lt's a condition of my bail.

You can't let them stop you.

They're not stopping me.

l just don't want to
jeopardize your opportunity.

You can win without me.

This is what you wanted
to do all along, isn't it?

He's right.

Why didn't you tell us this before?

Because l didn't want
to hear your arguments.

l knew they'd be too good.

[train whistle blows]

All right, Mr. Lowe, you're in charge.

Whatever your instincts
tell you, you listen.

Yes, sir.

Let's go.

Let's go.

What are we supposed
to do without you?


[train whistle blows]

[Man over P.A.]
Chicago Express, with service to Hartford,

New York, and Philadelphia,

now boarding, Track 29.

l thought somebody was
supposed to meet us.

Wiley College?

- Yes.
- Yes.

l'm Harland Osbourne.

Harvard has put me in charge of you
for the time that you'll be here in Boston.

- How you doing? l'm Henry Lowe.
- Mr. Lowe.

- James Farmer, Jr.
- Mr. Farmer.

- Samantha Booke.
- Of course. Miss Booke.

We should be going.
My car's out front.

l've got it.

Oh, thank you.

Just so you know,

you'll be staying on campus
in Douglas Hall.

l've got to tell you,

this debate is stirring up
a lot of excitement.

- Really?
- Oh, yeah.

lt's gonna be broadcast
all over America.

Can we see where we're
going to debate?

Of course.

[door opens]

Hello, Harvard!


[handclaps echoing]

[clicking tongues, echoing]

Excuse me.

You supposed to be here?

l guess we'll find out, won't we?


Well, look.

''Mr. Farmer.''


Lowe, l got $5.00.

Yeah, l did, too. lt's called per diem.


You want me to hold it for you?

No, not my $5.00.

[knock on door]


l got $5.00. l got $5.00.

Me, too.

Well, mine is crispy.

James, this is high tea, all right?

We nibble. We do not devour.

- [knock on door]
- How do you know?

l don't.

Hello. l'm Wilson.

This is for you.

Thank you.

l can't accept that, sir.

lt would be inappropriate.

lt would be inappropriate.


Who's it from?

lt's from Harvard.

Maybe it's more money.


''We have been informed
by Tau Kappa Gamma

''that your team delivers--

''canned speeches:

''arguments written by faculty
rather than students.

''Therefore, we are
changing the topic.

''You will have
the same amount of time

''to write new arguments
as the Harvard team:

48 hours.''

Coaches help students all the time.

Yes, sir.

''Both teams will be delivered

the same reference books.''

Yes, sir.

''Our new topic:

''Civil disobedience is a moral weapon
in the fight for justice.''

Wiley College will be
arguing the affirmative.''

Thank you, sir.

l can't reach Mr. Tolson.
Nobody knows where he is.

They're setting us up to lose.

We can't win without him.

You're wrong.
We can't win without him.


[Henry, reading]
''...less desponding free spirits,

is in her prisons--''

''Under a government
which imprisons any unjustly,

the true place for a just man--''

Here's your coffee, sir.

Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

Just Wilson.

Thank you, Wilson.

''...has provided for her freer

''and less desponding spirits--''

But you have to use
the Massacre at Amritsar.

Agreed, James,

but we'll save it for the rebuttal.

We're going to save the best for last

because you have
to leave the audience--

l think we should get into Gandhi's
concept of Satyagraha.

l don't agree.

l don't think people
are gonna understand what--

what-- Sadagara?

Sactchmaget? Sactchma--


From the Sanskrit.

Meaning truth and fairness.

l told you.

lt's-- lt's obvious to me

that we should begin
the debate with Gandhi.

That's exactly why l won't do it.

Why should l do the obvious thing?

Because that's what wins debates!

Listen to what you're saying.
This is Harvard, okay?

The first thing you think
when you think civil disobedience is what?

That's why we should use Gandhi!

But Gandhi is a strong point!

l want to win! Do you want to win?

Yes, l want to win, but he's right!

This is not getting us anywhere!

Tolson told me l was in charge!

He didn't put you in charge!

You're ''in charge'' does not mean--

So l can make decisions.

We're not starting with Gandhi!

Yes, we are!

Do you hear yourself?
You sound like a kid!

Well, you are a kid!

Fellas, come on!

- l'm an idiot?
- Yes!

To hell with you!
To hell with you!

To hell with this debate!

To hell with me?
To hell with me?

Just because l disagree with you?

lf you're gonna walk out, fine!

We're not chasing you!

We are so tired of chasing you!

He's coming back, isn't he?

See if l care!

[distant train whistle blows]

[horn honks]

How you doing, man?

 [honky tonk piano]

You're beautiful when you're asleep.

Henry, l--

Yeah, l know, l know.

But you can't stop me
from looking at you.

Can everybody shut up and go to bed?

James, come on, wake up.



Come on, James, get up.


What is this?

That's my notes.

What are you giving them to me for?

Because you're debating, not me.


lt's your turn, James.

You serious?

You're crazy.

At 1 4, you're just as good as me.

The judges will love you.

No. No. You can't quit.

l'm not quitting, Samantha.

Tolson made me captain,
and he said you were ready.

Yeah, but you saw me at Howard.

l was horrible.

That's right. You did terrible, didn't you?

Stunk up the whole joint, right?

So you should just quit, right?

You should just give up.


Who's the judge?


Who's the judge?

The judge is God.

And why is he God?

Because he decides who wins or loses,
not my opponent.

And who is your opponent?

He doesn't exist.

Why doesn't he exist?

Because he is a mere a dissenting voice

to the truth that l speak.

That's right.

Speak the truth.

Direct from Harvard Memorial Hall

in Cambridge, Massachusetts,

this is WNBC Radio,
bringing to you live

tonight's history-making debate

between little Wiley College
from Marshall, Texas,

and the Harvard University Debate team,

the first time ever

a Negro college has faced
the national champions.

Harvard's Dean of Students

is making his way to the podium now.

The crowd, as if on cue, falls silent.

On this historic occasion,

we welcome the distinguished team
from Wiley College,

our illustrious judges, you the audience,

and through the wonder
of radio, the nation.

Harvard University celebrates
its 300th anniversary this year,

and, in Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
its fifth President of the United States.

But no university, no matter how grand
or august in its history,

can afford to live in the past.

So, in the spirit of tomorrow,

l introduce to you today.:

the debaters from Wiley College:

Miss Samantha Booke,

Mr. James Farmer, Junior.



Mr. Farmer will argue the first affirmative.


Civil disobedience is a moral weapon

in the fight for justice.

But how can disobedience
ever be moral?

Well, l guess that depends

on one's definition of the words.


ln 1919, in lndia,

10,000 people gathered in Amritsar
to protest the tyranny of British rule.

Has it started?

- Shh!
- Your brother's talking.

Just sit down.

General Reginald Dyer
trapped them in a courtyard

and ordered his troops
to fire into the crowd for ten minutes.

379 died--

men, women, children--

Shot down in cold blood.

Dyer said he had
taught them a moral lesson.

Gandhi and his followers responded
not with violence

but with an organized
campaign of non-cooperation.

Government buildings were occupied.

Streets were blocked
with people who refused to rise,

even when beaten by police.

Gandhi was arrested,

but the British were soon
forced to release him.

He called it a moral victory.

The definition of moral:

Dyer's lesson or Gandhi's victory?

You choose.


From 191 4 to 1918,

for every single minute
the world was at war,

four men laid down their lives.

Just think of it.

240 brave young men
were hurled into eternity

every hour of every day, of every night,

for four long years.

35,000 hours.

8,281 ,000 casualties.




Here was a slaughter

immeasurably greater than
what happened at Amritsar.

Can there be anything moral about it?


except that it stopped Germany

from enslaving all of Europe.

Civil disobedience isn't moral
because it's non-violent.

Fighting for your country with violence

can be deeply moral,

demanding the greatest
sacrifice of all:

life itself.

Non-violence is the mask
civil disobedience wears

to conceal its true face--


Gandhi believes one must always act

with love and respect
for one's opponents,

even if they are Harvard debaters.


Gandhi also believes
that lawbreakers must accept

the legal consequences for their actions.

Does that sound like anarchy?

Civil disobedience is not something
for us to fear.

lt is, after all, an American concept.

You see, Gandhi draws his inspiration

not from a Hindu scripture,

but from Henry David Thoreau,

who l believe graduated from Harvard

and lived by a pond
not too far from here.

My opponent is right about one thing.

Thoreau was a Harvard grad,

and, like many of us, a bit self-righteous.


He once said, ''Any man
more right than his neighbors

constitutes a majority of one.''

Thoreau the idealist could never know

that Adolf Hitler
would agree with his words.

The beauty and the burden
of democracy is this:

no idea prevails without
the support of the majority.

The people decide
the moral issues of the day,

not a majority of one.

Majorities do not decide
what is right or wrong.

Your conscience does.

So why should a citizen

surrender his or her conscience

to a legislator?

No, we must never, ever kneel down

before the tyranny of a majority.



We can't decide which laws
to obey and which to ignore.

lf we could...

l'd never stop for a red light.


My father is one of those men

that stands between us and chaos:

a police officer.

l remember the day
his partner, his best friend,

was gunned down in the line of duty.

Most vividly of all,

l remember the expression
on my dad's face.

Nothing that erodes
the rule of law can be moral,

no matter what name we give it.


Why doesn't he say something?


ln Texas...

they lynch Negroes.

My teammates and l

saw a man strung up by his neck

and set on fire.

We drove through a lynch mob,

pressed our faces
against the floorboard.

l looked at my teammates.

l saw the fear in their eyes...

and worse...

the shame.

What was this Negro's crime

that he should be hung, without trial,

in a dark forest filled with fog?

Was he a thief?

Was he a killer?

Or just a Negro?

Was he a sharecropper?

A preacher?

Were his children waiting up for him?

And who are we to just
lie there and do nothing?

No matter what he did,
the mob was the criminal.

But the law did nothing,

just left us wondering why.

My opponent says

nothing that erodes the rule
of law can be moral.

But there is no rule of law
in the Jim Crow South,

not when Negroes are denied housing,

turned away from schools, hospitals,

and not when we are lynched.

St. Augustine said,

''An unjust law is no law at all, ''

which means l have a right,

even a duty, to resist...

with violence or civil disobedience.

You should pray l choose the latter.


ln tonight's debate

between Harvard University
and Wiley College...

And the winner is...


Wiley College.




 Veil my face 

 Veil my face 

 Veil my face 

 Got two wings 

 Veil my face 

 Got two wings 

 Veil my feet 

 Got two wings 

 Fly away 

 Can't no man 

 Do me no harm 

 Got two wings 

 Veil my face 

 Got two wings 

 Veil my feet 

 Got two wings 

 Fly away 

 Can't no man 

 Do me no harm 

 Gather 'cause my soul is 

 Callin' out my name 

 Got two wings ready 

 And me just the same 

 Oh, brothers and sisters 

 Meet me in the air 

 lf my wings fail me 

 l'll get another pair 

 l got two wings 

 Veil my face 

 Got two wings 

 Veil my feet 

 Got two wings 

 Fly away 

 Can't no man 

 Do me no harm 















 Hey, hey, hey 

 Hey, hey 

 Fly away 

 Fly away 


 Fly away 


 Fly away 


 Fly away 

 Fly away 

 Fly away 




 [gospel organ]









 Up above my head 

 Above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 Up above my head 

 Up above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 Up above my head 

 Up above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 l really do believe 

 Yes, l do believe 

 Hey, hey 

 There's a heaven somewhere 

 Heaven somewhere 

 Up above my head 

 Up above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 Up above my head 

 Up above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 Up above my head 

 Up above my head 

 l hear music in the air 

 Music in the air 

 l really do believe 

 Yes, l do believe 

 There's a heaven somewhere 

 Heaven somewhere 

Special thanks to SergeiK.