The Great Debaters: The Wiley College Debate Team

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Introduction Conflict is inevitable in any personal relationship or among members of any group. While we encounter many types of conflict in our lifetime, we often look for ways to avoid conflict. So, why do we run away from dealing with our conflict? It is often because many of us fear the conflict will escalate into a situation we will not be able to sustain. “As conflicts escalate, they go through certain incremental transformations. Although these transformations occur separately on each side, they affect the conflict as a whole because they are usually mirrored by the other side. As a result of these transformations, the conflict is intensified in ways that are sometimes exceedingly difficult to undo” (Pruitt, and Kim 89). We see many of these intense moments of escalating conflict throughout the story of The Great Debaters. The Great Debaters is based on a true story of three African-American students faced with the escalating conflict of racism in the 1930’s, with their English College Professor, Melvin B. Tolson bringing them together to create the first African-American debate team. “An outspoken Wiley College professor who boldly challenged the discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the 1930s, Tolson's recognizes that his young debate students possess the spark of a new generation. Convinced that they could invoke great change if given the confidence and tools needed to do so, the tireless educator implores his students to take responsibility for the future while furtively attempting to protect them from his clandestine role as an organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Chief among Tolson's promising young students is a 14-year-old prodigy named James Farmer, Jr. Farmer's father, James Sr., is a renown... ... middle of paper ... ...y successful in eliminating the escalating conflict they were faced with; they were also given an opportunity to address the racism and oppression they had experienced over the years. Works Cited Buchanan, Jason. "The Great Debaters Plot & Synopsis." Rev. of The Great Debaters. Moviefone. AOL Inc., 13 May 2008. Web. 11 July 2010. . Pruitt, Dean G, and Sung Hee Kim. Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement. 3rd ed. 2004. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2004. Print. The Great Debaters - Negroes should be admitted to the same college as whites. Denzel Washington. MGM, 2007. YouTube. Web. 11 July 2010. . Watkins, Karen. “When Co-Workers Clash.” Training and Development Journal, 2003: 26-27. Web. 11 July 2010.
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