A movie about an East Texas debate team, has had a significant impact on a Marshall area college campus and it's students, with debate becoming an interest for a new generation. The release of 'The Great Debaters' has put Wiley College on the map making a huge impact on the campus and students.
"I really haven't thought about debate so I think this movie now is going to encourage students to have an interest in debating," says senior, Ashley Phillips.
"And I've had several people say I think I'll send my child to Wiley now" says Dr. Amanda Winters, Professor of Education.
The film stars Denzel Washington, and is based on the true story of the 1935 Wiley College debate team which defeated national champion U.S.C., although in the movie they defeat Harvard University. Currently 2 students have joined the debate team at Wiley, and more are getting interested.
"Its just a great thing to be able to experience knowing the history of the debaters club and we're trying to bring it back, I'm kind of interested in doing it and seeing what its all about" says Wiley junior Christopher Booker, who is joining the current school debate team.
In recent years Wiley college like a lot of small colleges has had financial difficulty, staff have taken unpaid furloughs, and even the simplest problems like shortages of office supplies. But their hoping that this movie gives them a real Hollywood ending. For decades the school couldn't support a debate team, but movie makers helped establish a scholarship fund, and have paid for renovations to the administration building and landscaping.
"I would see our enrollment increasing as a result of that and who knows maybe we'll have more endowments and I feel all of those things are positive things" Winters says.
For many , art has given life to a team that was almost forgotten.
"The movie is the best thing to ever happen to Wiley College" Phillips says.
Because of racial inequality in the 1930's, African Americans could not belong to a recognized debate society, and their victory over U.S.C. was not officially recognized.