The world-renowned Debate Team at Texas Southern University won the inaugural HBCU National Speech and Debate Championship Tournament on January 28 at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. The three-day competition featured teams from 22 historically Black colleges and universities from across the country.
TSU’s debaters had earned enough points at the end of the competition to receive the National Overall Sweepstakes Championship trophy. The team also picked up trophies for Debate Team and Individual Events sweepstakes, first place in both Impromptu Speaking and Slam Poetry, second place in Impromptu Speaking and third place in Programmed Oral Interpretation. TSU collected 20 awards in multiple categories.
The TSU Debate Team is preparing for an international competition in Montreal, Quebec in March. Dr. Gloria Batiste-Roberts is the head coach of TSU’s Debate Team, along with assistant coaches Wendell King II and Sondera Malry, and graduate assistants Shekia Rogers and Okwildilli Onyekawelu. Antréchelle Dorsey is president of the Debate Team. Dr. Thomas F. Freeman, 96, is in his 68th year at Texas Southern and continues to work with the team. TSU debaters have garnered several international titles during the team’s existence.
TSU’s rich history in debating dates back to 1949 under the leadership of Dr. Freeman, professor emeritus and Debate Team head coach. Dr. Freeman and former Wiley College debate team coach, the late Melvin Tolson, were inducted into the HBCU Debate League Debate Hall of Fame at the event.
The tournament concluded with Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, president of Wiley College, conferring an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to legendary actor Denzel Washington. Washington brought attention to African-American debaters in the film The Great Debaters.
The following HBCUs participated in the competition: Bethune-Cookman, Fisk, Hampton, Howard, Huston-Tillotson, Jackson State, Jarvis Christian, Lawson State, North Carolina AT&T, North Carolina Central, Paul Quinn, Philander Smith, Prairie View A&M, Rust, Southwestern Christian, Talladega, Tennessee State, Texas College, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Wiley and Xavier of Louisiana.
The TSU Debate Team is open for membership to any undergraduate student anytime during the semester without regard to previous training or experience. Meetings are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. and workshops are held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Paige Education Building – Suite 112. Students are invited to visit and consult with the team’s coaches on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.