Denzel Washington Continues Support for the Wiley College Debate Team

Remember the 2007 Hollywood drama The Great Debaters?

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 06: Honoree Denzel Washington speaks onstage during the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for WarnerMedia) 610265

In 2007, veteran American actor Denzel Washington directed and starred in the film The Great Debaters, portraying Melvin B. Tolson, the renowned coach of the Wiley College debate team. The biopic depicted the 10-year streak that Wiley College earned under Tolson’s tutelage as well as his strides in integrating previously-segregated collegiate debates.

Along with the release of the film, Washington made a donation to the institution through his Denzel Washington Family Fund with an initial $1 million, paying out $100,000 every year in order to help relaunch and revitalize the debate team that was dismantled after Tolson left in 1947. In 2018, they renewed that same commitment.

Early in July, the Texas-based HBCU announced that the Washington family donated its fourth instalment of $100,000 for this round of donations to “cover signing up debate team representatives who want to embrace the challenge of membership. Additionally, the money is used to fund their scholarships.”

“We are grateful for the Washington family’s generosity for 15 years and counting to Wiley College’s phenomenal debate team, which, because of this support, can live out our motto to ‘Go forth Inspired,’” added Dr. Herman J. Felton, President of Wiley College. “Being a dominant force as home of The Great Debaters makes us a very attractive option for those skilled in debate, and this financial support further amplifies the benefits of becoming a Wiley debate scholar.”

The Great Debaters still ranks as one of the finest Black-American drama ever made; thanks to Denzel and the rest of the amazing cast who brought their A-game to the project. Asides being a great debate coach and teacher, Tolson uses his influence to mentor young black people out of trouble while championing the fight against racism in his own little way. Alongside Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, and Jurnee Smollet also starred in The Great Debaters.

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