February 26, 2009
By MARK NORRIS
The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday night's debate between teams from Southern Methodist University and Wiley College was 74 years in the making.
The debate team from the historically black college in Marshall, Texas, was made famous in 2007's The Great Debaters, which starred Denzel Washington.
That team had debated 75 times and lost only once between 1929 and 1939 under the guidance of poet Melvin B. Tolson, including a 1935 win over the national champions from the University of Southern California.
SMU and Wiley debate teams were supposed to compete in 1935, but the debate was called off, many suspect because of negative publicity stemming from Tolson's arrest for civil rights activism. It would have been the first time a white school hosted a debate against a black college.
"We consider this a meeting of an unfulfilled promise," said SMU professor and debate coach Ben Voth.
Both teams are in their first year of competition after being re-formed in the fall.
Read the full story and see the video.
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