This unsentimental movie was about real people, real history. The reality that the movie depicted was so outrageous that it was hard to accept that this was how it was. This movie sure made me want to rewrite history.
The movie takes place in the early 1930's in Texas where segregation and injustice were a matter of course. At the same time as Texas and other states kept black students out of state-funded colleges etc., lynching was also an accepted practice. The daily smaller demeaning was unbelievable. How is it that people can be so smug, arrogant, conceited, cruel, one-sided., and plain ignorant?
Denzel Washington plays a teacher at Wiley, a small black college. He starts a debate team. He singlehandedly pursues and pursues that the Wiley debate team be given a chance to debate teams from white colleges, something unheard of. He writes letter after letter and, like Winston Churchill, never gives up. Finally, in 1935, Harvard invites the Wiley team to debate. This was a HUGE accomplishment. It was like a miracle really.
This is true too: The debate team of Wiley College won over the Harvard debate team! They won! The white judges, faculty, and students of Harvard gave the great Wiley debaters a standing ovation and the recognition the Wiley Debate Team so deserved.
The victory was greater than that, however. What this meant to the young debaters! What it did for their sense of self! Possibly changed their lives.
One of the debaters who was something of a reprobate became a minister. The female debater became a lawyer and, years later, walked in the first Freedom March. The youngest debater who had never actually debated before the Harvard debate -- I forget exactly what he became, yet he did later lead a group for equality. These three young people certainly inspired me.
This movie stars Denzel Washington and Forrest Whitaker, and there are some fabulous new actors that deserve academy awards. Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington produced this movie. Definitely worth seeing.