Students to take part in ‘The Great Debate’ presented by Texas African American Museum, National African American Historical Society

Du Bois, on the other hand, advocated political action and a civil rights agenda, including partially founding the NAACP.

The Morning Telegraph

Image: Larry D. Wade Sr. speaks about a well-known Black historic neighborhood in the northside of Tyler, The Cut, at Liberty Hall in February 2022. Wade, founder and president of the NAAHS, is inviting the community to “The Great Debate” to be held at Tyler Junior College on Saturday in which local students will debate the philosophies of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

Organizers are inviting the community to witness local high school and college students compete in an organized debate this weekend.

On Saturday, the National African American Historical Society and Texas African American Museum, both of Tyler, will jointly present “The Great Debate” with participating teams from Tyler, Tyler Legacy, Whitehouse and Lindale high schools and University of Texas at Tyler and Wiley College students. 

The debate will center between the philosophies of William E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, on the subject of “How Blacks Should Rise Over 100 Years Ago,” said NAAHS Founder and President Larry D. Wade Sr.

Wade said the organizers are proud to have participation from the historic debate team from Wiley College, which was featured in 2007 film “The Great Debaters,” and to see the other students share their knowledge, as well. 

Wade said organizers invite the community to come out and witness the event.

“We’ve never done this before, it’s experimental but also it’s historical because it teaches the young people about history through active engagement,” Wade said. “It’s going to be exciting and very interesting.”

Du Bois and Washington were leaders of the Black community in the late 19th and 20th centuries, but their philosophies were very different and still continue to be inspiration for educational discussions.

Due to their opposing viewpoints on strategies for Black social and economic progress, the contrast has often been examined and applied to discussions on how to end racial injustice and what the role of Black leadership should be, according to

Washington believed in self-help and racial solidarity, encouraging Black people to accept discrimination for the

time being while putting their focus on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity, according to PBS. He believed in vocational education and believed tangible skills would win the respect of white people and “lead to African Americans being fully accepted as citizens and integrated into all strata of society,” according to PBS.

Du Bois, on the other hand, advocated political action and a civil rights agenda, including partially founding the NAACP. He was an influential intellectual, as the first Black American to earn a PhD from Harvard University. His argument to help the Black community rise was that social change could be accomplished by developing a small group of college-educated Black people he called “the Talented Tenth,” according to PBS.

The student debate will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tyler Junior College Rogers Student Center, 1327 South Baxter Avenue, Tyler. The debates will be taking place simultaneously throughout the day in four different rooms (Apache Rooms 1-4).

There will be a lunch from noon to 1 p.m. The final competitors will compete after lunch.

There will be two divisions of competition, high school level and college level, with prizes awarded to winners.

The event is free to the public, but donations will be accepted.

For further information, contact Debate Committee Chairperson Dorinda Williams at 903-705-8255; Debate Committee Co-Chairperson Sheldon McGown at 903-952-9040; Wade at 903-452-3310; or TAAM Executive Director Gloria Washington at 903-283-6089.


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