#OnThisDay 1898 Melvin B. Tolson, author of Rendevous with America and Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, was born. He was also the famed coach of the Wiley College Forensic debate team.

There's more to his story.

Born in Missouri, Mr. Tolson attended Fisk University before graduating from Lincoln University. He and his wife had four children; two became college professors themselves. After earning his master's degree, he went to Wiley College.
He was a tough, but fair, professor. He started a debate team at Wiley, and a series of debates among HBCUs and winning every step along the way - Fisk, Morehouse, Virginia Union, Lincoln, Wilberforce, and Howard Universities all fell to the great debaters.
Denzel Washington played him in the great film, "The Great Debaters."
One of his students? Civil rights icon James Farmer, Jr. Tolson was also busy organizing farmers, businesses and Black people against discrimination and into labor unions in Texas, activities that literally almost got him lynched.
Tolson created his own Greek letter debate society, Alpha Phi Omega. Tolson went beyond HBCUs to debate, and scheduled a debate against the law students at the University of Michigan.

His undergraduate students debated the law school students at a top law school.

And won.
HBCUs refused to debate this awesome squad, now composed of James Farmer, Jr. Also, the debate in the movie with Harvard never took place. Instead, it happened against the national debate champs - USC.
The great debaters WON THE NATIONAL TITLE.

For Mr. Tolson, there was never any doubt. Also, another note: THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS THE WILLIE LYNCH LETTER. Or Willie Lynch.

James Farmer, Jr. would go on to even bigger things.

Source: https://www.humanitiestexas.org/news/articles/wiley-colleges-great-debaters
Born in Marshall, TX, Mr. Farmer's parents were educators. His dad was a professor at Wiley College. This hero pushed for nonviolent protest to dismantle segregation, and served alongside Martin Luther King Jr. +
co-founded the Committee of Racial Equality.
In 1960, Mr. Farmer organized the original "Freedom Riders," enduring bus bombings and near-lynchings to secure the right of inter-state travel for Black people. This multi-racial and aged group was awesome in their collective bravery.
You might recognize the young man standing in the back to the left as young Fisk University student John Lewis.
Mr. Farmer was key in the drafting of legislation that led to becoming the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Housing Rights Act. This photo is of Mr. Farmer and Mr. Lewis after Selma - Mr. Lewis' skull was fractured.
Mr. Farmer debated - and defeated - none other than Malcolm X FOUR TIMES.

Mr. Farmer said "Malcolm didn't have a chance. He didn't learn from Mr. Tolson."
FIN/Melvin Tolson was also a great poet. He died after cancer surgery in 1966. At the time, he was an instructor at Tuskegee Institute.
You can follow @JamesMWilliam18.
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