The Great Debaters

7 July 2016

The movie the Great Debaters can teach us many things about the value of rhetoric. The dictionary definition of rhetoric is, the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. So a movie that deals with a group of young black college students fighting for rights can teach us a great deal of things. First off these students, instead of fighting with riots and their fists used words. They began against the top Negro college in the state of Texas and eventually worked their way up to the Harvard University.

Harvard had won league championships multiple times and these students from a small Wiley college, while undefeated were still unproven. Wiley saw and faced many challenges on their way to their debate at Harvard. In order to evoke emotion from the judges and audience the students used a personal anecdote, a certain instance when they witnessed a lynch mob on their way to a debate.

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It cannot be argued that just that anecdote won them the debate but it played a huge part in persuading the audience their way. Other uses of rhetoric in the movie include using humor against their opponent’s to evoke a reaction from the audience.

Also putting spins on definitions of words such as the word law in which the Wiley debaters had a different view of the word law based on their experience whilst the Harvard debaters had their own view but each argued their view with different example such as Wiley using Gandhi and his civil disobedience or the Harvard debaters using a personal anecdote. Ultimately many exampled of rhetoric are tied into the movie the Great Debaters throughout each debate but at the Harvard debate these uses became prevalent.

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The Great Debaters. (2016, Jul 17). Retrieved October 18, 2019, from
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