Teams from Wiley College and the University of Southern California will have a rematch Friday of the memorable 1935 debate that saw the small, historically black school prevail over the nationally known, mostly white powerhouse.
The exhibition will be held at Wiley in the small town of Marshall, near Texas’ border with Louisiana. The 1935 debate at USC took place when the nation was heavily segregated and helped inspire "The Great Debaters," a 2007 movie starring Denzel Washington. The movie climaxes with a fictional debate against Harvard that was modeled on the real match in California.
"I think it’s an incredible opportunity for the two teams to get together once again," said Chris Medina, Wiley’s director of forensics. "We owe a debt of gratitude to USC for being ground-breakers in allowing us, an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), to really, at that point, achieve legitimacy. They were one of the few white colleges that would debate with us." Though experts say there wasn’t a structure for a national debate championship until the late 1940s, USC was known as a nationally competitive debate team, said Gordon Stables, USC’s director of debate and forensics. And Wiley debaters referred to USC as national champions.