Denzel Washington ... Melvin B. Tolson
Nate Parker ... Henry Lowe
Jurnee Smollett ... Samantha Booke
Denzel Whitaker ... James Farmer Jr.
Forest Whitaker ... Dr. James Farmer Sr.
I almost gave up on this movie. About one-third of the way through and I was bored senseless. There seemed to be no forward movement and the acting felt stagnant. I knew that Denzel Washington couldn’t let me down in this way and Jurnee Smollett is just too captivating of an actress to not keep my attention, so I decided to give it a little bit more time.
Once we hit the halfway point I was hooked, I do not know for sure what happened, but the storyline started to evolve and I was becoming more attached to the characters and the story they were telling.
Based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, who inspired his students to form the school’s first debate team. Not just any debate team, but a team from a small rural all-African-American college during the height of the depression. A team that would one day take on the likes of Harvard in the national championship and would go on to record one of the greatest debate records of their time.
I do not know if this movie will appeal to all, but if you stick with it and watch the extra footage at the end of the DVD, you will get a completely new appreciation of the people and the times. This was an extraordinary group of young people and to see what they have achieved since is in itself remarkable.