December 12

The Great Debaters

I will assume you saw the coalescing (notice the gerund [look it up, it may be on your final])between this film and the Romantic period authors you’ve been studying. Think about the film and how the themes it promotes line up with the tenets of the Romantic Period. Between how the individual relates to community, the birth of consciousness, the fight for social justice,education as the key to freedom, or love of nature (or any other idea you think pertinent), choose one topic and discuss how it connects to the period and the film. Organize your response according to everything you know about responding to a text. Be sure to include concrete examples from both your readings and the film.

Feel free to use some periodic or cumulative sentences, party in the front or back! Proofread for everything on your current list, including unnecessary commas.

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Posted December 12, 2012 by tashak38 in category Uncategorized

About the Author

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area--Big Up to the East Bay and have two wonderful teenaged daughters..cough, cough. Really, I actually do have two great girls and we love techy stuff. I teach high school English in Hayward, CA, and spent a little too much of my lifetime earning a couple of degrees in English Literature, yipee!. I'm completely stoked about blogging and love to watch my students watch themselves publishing their own works in real school time.

76 thoughts on “The Great Debaters

  1. Kiana Ledda

    Kiana Ledda
    Keeble
    AP English, Period 5
    16, December 2012

    The film, “The Great Debaters”, was a moving story about four African-American students from Wiley College who join their debate team and how they struggled with discrimination in the Jim Crow South. Throughout many of their debates, they used a lot of examples from the Romantic Era such as Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience”. Within his essay, he explains his philosophical idea that the government does no good against a majority for they have the legitimate power. In their final debate against Harvard University, the topic was on civil disobedience with Wiley College arguing the affirmative and Harvard arguing the negative. Samantha Booke from Wiley College argued that citizens must never give up their morals to the injustice of a majority. James Farmer Jr., also from Wiley College, gives the last argument in which he quotes St. Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.” From there, he illustrates the injustice within the Jim Crow South where African-Americans were being lynched, denied of housing, and proper education. He then says, “…I have a right, better yet a duty to resist.” “The Great Debaters” promoted many examples of the Romantic Period within the main characters’ debates.

    Reply
  2. Jhoann B.

    Jhoann Batac
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 11 Period 2
    13 December 2012

    Education is of paramount significance to society because it is an effective weapon against manipulation and oppression. The Great Debaters, an inspiring and enriching film demonstrating the struggles of a Negro debate team from Wiley College against racism and racial discrimination, manifests one of the ideas of the Romantic Period by conveying education as the key to freedom. The Wiley College debate team’s first debate at an all white university was in Oklahoma with the resolve, “Negroes should be admitted to state universities.” Samantha Booke highlights education as a medium of freedom by saying, “As long as schools are segregated Negros will receive an education that is both separate
    and unequal… the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is
    always, is always right now!” Booke powerfully delivers her speech to emphasize how education is the solution to African Americans’ struggle against racism and social injustice. Learned minds, like the students of the Wiley College debate team, are what molded the United States into a society celebrated as the freest in the world.

    Reply
  3. Canyon Riley

    Canyon Riley
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 11, Period 2
    13 December 2012
    In the film, “The Great Debaters,” four courageous Wiley College students from Marshall, Texas overcome adversity with their words and minds. There are several Romantic ideas that intertwine with the plot of the film. The birth of consciousness stands out the most because the students won their debates with philosophy.

    The birth of consciousness appears frequently through the film especially in the beginning and end. Before the first debate, Mr. Tolson drilled his debaters through an exercise where he asked them questions to which the students had to respond with cork in their mouths. I quote,” Who is the Judge? The Judge is God. Why is he God? Because He decides who wins or loses, not my opponent. Who is your opponent? He does not exist. Why doesn’t he exist? Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth.” Mr. Tolson wanted his debaters to be confident in what they argue and not be intimidated by what others say or do. During that era, some white people used fear and scare tactics to control the minds of the Negroes. The first person on the debate team to argue off of his conscious was Henry Lowe. He helped his team win their first debate by reciting from of his fellow teammates. Samantha Booke is the second character to use her own morals in a debate. In the debate against Oklahoma City University, Miss Booke demanded that the time for justice for education is now. The final character to use this tactic is James Farmer Jr. in the debate against Harvard. After taking a long pause to collect his thoughts, Mr. Farmer used what he saw and felt at a lynching to argue that he has the right to display civil disobedience against unjust laws.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Well said, Canyon! I love your interpretation and boldness in taking on this complex topic. Way to go. You are doing so very well.

      Reply
  4. Ryan C.

    Ryan C
    Ms. Keeble
    Period 1

    The film, “The Great Debaters”, expresses emotion greatly. There is also the same emotion in Henry David Thoreau’s essay. In the film, there is deep emotion in Mr. Farmer Jr.’s friendship, the characters feeling of the lynching they witnessed, and the characters emotion toward debating. Thoreau expresses emotion in his writings. He uses emotional appeal to talk about if you should obey certain laws and your government.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      I would have liked you to develop this a little more, Ryan. This is too short. Isn’t there a lot more to say here?

      Reply
  5. Maria Fajardo

    Maria F
    Period 2
    12/14/12

    In the film and Henry David Thoreau’s essay, they both put out for social justice. Thoreau explains how social justice had an impact on not only them but in nature aswell. In the film, the debaters all argued for discrimination that would happen and they included things that they experienced based on it. The film and essay both connect to social justice because it lead to nature.

    Reply
  6. Areli S

    Areli Sanchez
    Ms.Keeble
    Ap English 2
    Decemner 14, 2012

    ( I will try my best, for I only saw the beggining of the film, Day 1 )
    “The Great Debaters” and Thereau’s “Civil Disobedience” part-take side by side an isssue of which lingered through the Romantic era. This issue is comformity and the act agaisnt it, and it is seen at the begging of the film and as well in Thereaus’ writting. The film takes place in the south, where African Americans are treated unequally, and so this debate team arises, one in which they fight the norm. Thereaus writing “Civil Disobedience” regards thinking fro oneself, individuality and going agaisnt the norm too.

    Reply
  7. David .D

    David Delgado
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English
    Period 2
    13 December 2012

    The film “The Great Debaters” and Henry David Thoreau an author of the Romantic period, both strongly relate to social justice. In the film four Negro college students fight through debates to prove themselves as worthy as white people. In the Romantic Period many people did the same they didn’t want to follow traditional morals anymore as a result, people fought for what they believed was right. Another thing is that during this time period people got smarter and more advanced; scientists began to find evidence that God wasn’t real. There was really no way to argue with them, because of how much information they had, and religion was all based off faith so there really was no way to prove that God was real. The characters of the film stated there own beliefs which was that people of color are equal to white people. It didn’t matter what the skin color was both were US citizens and that is why they broke the traditional morals that were in their society. People in this time never thought that black people can go to a white college or that a black debate can face a white debate team. They proved that it didn’t matter what the skin color was both were smart and equal. With this said The Romantic Period and this film demonstrated more liberal ideas.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Wow! Who have you young people been talking to? “God isn’t real?” How about there is no proof of God’s existence, except in the faithful minds of those who believe in various higher powers. We do not ever wish to alienate people of faith.

      Reply
    2. tashak38 (Post author)

      Scientists sought to prove that belief in God was theoretical, based on faith and not science. I am wondering where this idea about God not existing stems from. Is it from a discussion in another class or your interpretation of one of our assigned readings? Can you tell me?

      Reply
  8. Niauni

    Niauni Hill
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English, Period 1
    14 December 2012
    6:50 AM

    “The Great Debaters” is about three Negroe college students, Henry Lowe, Farmer Junior, and Samantha Booke who go through many trials and tribulations to prove that they are as equal, and should be as free as any other white man or woman. These three students attend Wiley College in 1935, in Texas, a place and time where racial segregation is live. Through their journey with their devoted teacher Mr. Tolson, they proved themselves to many individuals. Wiley College was the first college to debate a white school. They debated Oklahoma State University by showing their drive for a change. At Oklahoma State University Wiley College argued the affiative of Negroes being accepted into white colleges.

    Samantha Booke said is one of her debates, “As long as schools are segregated, Negroes will receive an education that is both, separate and unequal.” Hearing this quote spoke to me in many different ways. One way this quote caught my attention is how the words were delivered, the intensity it brought about, the goose bumps that formed on my skin. Samantha Booke was right. This quote relates to the Romanticism Era, because it is saying that education is the way to be free, education is the key to unlock success. Education is needed to be an individual!

    Reply
  9. David M.

    David M.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English
    12/13/12
    In the film, “The Great Debaters” there is a connection between Henry David Thoreau and the actions of the characters in the film. The debaters actually read Thoreau’s book, “Civil Disobedience.” The debaters Farmer Jr., Lowe, and Booke with an “e” all chose to change people through words and not violence. Their speeches in the film gave specific examples of the racism and lynching that occurs in Texas. Instead of reacting with violence, Farmer Jr. decided to use this example as another type of weapon, his words. “Civil Disobedience” is not a call to action through violence, but rather a call to speak up to injustice. The three debaters definitely used Thoreau’s ideas and even talked about civil disobedience as an argument too. Their ploy was to rise up against injustice through the use of words and change the minds of Americans across the nation.

    Reply
  10. Bilguun B

    Bilguun Batdorj

    Ms Keeble

    AP English

    Dec 13 2012

    The film,”The Great Debaters” directed by Denzel Washington, included examples that showcased that the idea of pursuit of happiness can be achieved through hard work and determination. Coincidentally, the film’s theme shares many characteristics to Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and also to the Romantic period mentality. The story takes place in the South before the civil rights movement in which three African American students, originally four, joins the debate team in order to achieve their life goals. Because of the colors of their skin, the protagonists faced racial harassment and prejudice. This also came up to become an advantage for the debaters. The protagonists fought against old traditions and wanted to prove to the larger majority that African Americans should be treated as equals. In some way this is a example of a peaceful, non violent form of civil disobedience. The mentality of the Romantic period emphasized the importance of a individual’s role in society. Mr. Tolson, who acted as the coach for the debate team, was secretly a Communist who organized union meetings for the local sharecroppers. The “White elite” of the area believed this as a problem and arrested Mr. Tolson without trail. This did not trouble him and he stood his ground without giving in. Because of this he was freed after a wave of protests and a court order.

    Reply
  11. Bilguun B

    Bilguun Batdorj

    Ms Keeble

    AP English

    Dec 13 2012

    The film,”The Great Debaters” directed by Denzel Washington, included examples that showcased that the idea of pursuit of happiness can be achieved through hard work and determination. Coincidentally, the film’s theme shares many characteristics to Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and also to the Romantic period mentality. The story takes place in the South before the civil rights movement in which three African American students, originally four, joins the debate team in order to achieve their life goals. Because of the colors of their skin, the protagonists faced racial harassment and prejudice. This also came up to become an advantage for the debaters. The protagonists fought against old traditions and wanted to prove to the larger majority that African Americans should be treated as equals. In some way this is a example of a peaceful, non violent form of civil disobedience. The mentality of the Romantic period emphasized the importance of a individual’s role in society. Mr. Tolson, who acted as the coach for the debate team, was secretly a Communist who organized union meetings for the local sharecroppers. The “White elite” of the area believed this as a problem and arrested Mr. Tolson without trail. This did not trouble him and he stood his ground without giving in. Because of this he was freed after a wave of protests and a court order.

    Reply
  12. Desiree N.

    Desiree N.

    Ms. Keeble

    AP English 11

    13 December 2012

    The Romantic Period was about new ways of thinking and new ideas being made. Equality was a big concept being discussed during the Romantic Period. The film, The Great Debaters, and Henry David Thoreau’s essay have ideas about equality and simplicity. Thoreau fought for his beliefs on living in peace and equality just like the four main characters in the film did. Thoreau and the four characters weren’t afraid to work hard and fight for what they believed in, just like the writers in the Romantic Period. Writers in the Romantic Period were willing to risk their reputations by writing about beliefs some people thought were absurd, as long as their message was heard they didn’t care. Henry David Thoreau and the four main characters from The Great Debaters did a good job with fighting for what they believed in, they had great courage and valor.

    Reply
  13. Sidney

    Sidney
    Ap english
    Period 1

    Romanticism was a counterpart of liberalism and radicalism. Like both these ideas and/or philosophies, Thoreau believed in the natural world. He believed in his love of nature and how he could live without the material things in life. This gave him a greater opportunity to focus on the important things which was to fight for social justice. His writing of Civil Disobedience connected to the Great Debaters in that  of individual resistance. In the last scene of the Great Debaters, the argument of morality within justice came into question.  Through out the film the characters had to deal with certain events where they were suppressed. All were victims of civil disobedience in what they believed were immoral. 
    This brought in there individuality which ties in with social consciousness. The romantic period was all about learning what was true as an individual and not what was believed by all. Periods like these, were when the people began to doubt what the government or religion taught them. The winning argument in the film brought to everyone watching the debate, the realization that it was time for change. Everything the government had said about African Americans was not true. It was time for people to think for themselves and make decisions out of correct morality. 

     

    Reply
  14. Adiam H

    Adiam Habtay
    Ms. Keeble
    Period 5
    December 13,2012

    In the film ” The Great Debaters” Mr.Tolson inspires Wiley College to form their first debate team during the 1930’s. Three young men, and a young lady carefully were selected to represent their school. Mr. Tolson had an ambition to help them find,take back, and keep their righteous mind that the “white man” took. Both the film and the tenets of the romantic period had similar characteristic , individuality and humankind. In the short essay “Civil Disobedience” Henry Thoreau asserts “That government is best which governs least.”. In other words, the government does not use their power correctly. Which links with what the Wiley students debated about. Not only did whites discriminated blacks, but also the government. They debated on how blacks deserve equal rights, but the people AND government does not provide the justice they deserve.

    Reply
  15. Amacalli Duran

    Amacalli Duran
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English

    The Romantic Era moved away from the logic and limitations of the Classical Era and instead embraced creativity and freedom. The Great Debaters, a profound movie demonstrates the change in time period and the appreciation of the arts and education. The movie mainly focuses on social injustice, which was a huge controversy throughout the Romantic period especially targeted by Thoreau.

    In the movie, the social injustice is targeted to African-Americans. In the Jim Crow South, Americans treated African-Americans as slaves even though slavery was abolished. The Americans of society viewed this treatment as equal and fair but, African-Americans knew that their “God-given” rights were stolen away. Which side do you view to decide what is social injustice? Are the Whites in the wrong? Or are the Blacks in the wrong?

    David Henry’s Thoreau protest against social injustice had little to do with race, but instead focused on the means of living. Thoreau found it morally wrong to live a materialistic life. Thoreau prefers simplicity and valuing nature, and he found that Industrialists opposed strongly to his views. Now is it morally wrong to value nature when it hinders the expansion of technology? Or is it morally wrong to appreciate technology when it rids life of simplicity and of course, fresh air?

    Both Thoreau’s assertions and The Great Debaters focus on the multiple social injustices present in society. The point that both these sources emphasized are that most actions of humans are socially injustice and to each action there is always two opposing views. Both these sources also demonstrate how acts of social injustice follow suit to surroundings. Thoreau’s appreciation became evident when humanity decided to abhor nature and Jim Crow laws appeared when humanity attempted to accept Blacks.

    Reply
  16. Brittany-Ann D.

    Brittany-Ann V. Dela Cruz
    Keeble
    AP English
    14 December 2012

    The Great Debaters and Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience essay demonstrate exiplifies the Romantic era. In the film, Eisele provides evidence of education being the key to freedom. Four Negro debaters were degraded and harmed for the color of their skin. They were rejected to debate almost every White school in America. They were not turned down because they were untalented, but because Whites undermined African Americans. It was not until Harvard University challenged the Negros in a debate and lost. In that moment color did not matter, but the knowledge in the debater’s head. Education allowed the African American debaters to win and demand the same rights as white people. Education won freedom.

    Reply
  17. Valeria Diaz

    Valeria Diaz
    Ms. Keeble
    5th Period
    Humans. Every human has a different way of expressing life and facing their fears. Thoreau had a unique style in his writting because of the way he was able to write what he saw in society. In the film “The Great Debaters” Mr. Tolson seemed like a Thoreau symbol to me. He tought his students to use their voice wisley. Humans can raise their voice for a reason an can make an impact by simply using it. Everything comes down to the romantic period because their was a lot mental change in humans to see more like Thoreau did. The film was like a cherry on top to wrap the whole subject.

    Reply
  18. Kiloni D.

    Kiloni Driskell
    13 December 2012
    AP English
    2

    In the film, “The Great Debaters” four African American students on the debate team from Wiley College, invoke for great change and take responsibility for the future with the help of their professor Mr.Tolson. Wiley College was the first Afircan American team to face an all white university in a debate. Both the film and Henry David Thoreau fought and demonstrates social justice. Mr.Tolson challenged the discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the 1930’s and in “Civil Disobedience” there were multiple illustrations, one was a picture of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat and later went to jail for fighting for her rights. The Romantic Era was all about new ideas, self-expression and individual uniqueness. The four debaters are examples of indiviual uniqueness and they all brought something new to the table. All in all the Romantic period played a prodigious role in the movie and in the way we live today.

    Reply
  19. Merritt W.

    Merritt Walker
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 2
    12 December 2012

    In class we read Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” and watched the film “The Great Debaters”. Both the film and the essay fought for social justice. Although the film and the essay took place in two different time periods, they both have the same message. In the essay “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau argues that the government is unjust, and corrupt. During this time social justice was not accepted due to the fact that there was a multitude of people that owned slaves. Thoreau was trying to prove that social justice is something we need to achieve and improve in our society. Thoreau voiced his opinions against social injustice, and said how he felt to get his message heard. In the film “The Great Debaters” the debate team, led by Mr. Tolson, debated on many issues involving social justice. In one of the scenes in the movie, the debate team goes to an all-white school in Oklahoma. Samantha Booke and Henry Lowe debate about integrating the schools. They argue about blacks and whites coming together for a sole purpose to learn and get an education. They were fighting for equality for their people. Even though they were debating for their school, and a small crowd, their voices were being heard. Social justice was a reoccurring the film “The Great Debaters” and the essay “Civil Disobedience”.

    Reply
  20. Haley Rosano

    Haley R.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English per 2
    13 December 2012

    The Great Debaters, a movie based on a true story has a teacher- Mr. Tolson- as well as three main debaters- Samantha, James, and Henry. These three students mention Henry David Thoreau as well as his piece “Civil Disobedience” several times, making positive connections. Not only did the students make connections, they actually sounded like Thoreau himself. All of the students were very passionate about what they were debating, as was Thoreau with what he wrote about. Thoreau would use repetition to get his point across, and the students used personal experiences as well as emotional tones. In the first section of “The Great Debaters” Henry Lowe was in his first debate, and went against his teacher’s argument; he used his own passion that he felt would get him the win. Henry remained calm and used a simple plot with a deep meaning; this seemed to be a strategy Thoreau would use. In the last debate against Harvard, the Wiley College debaters used a lot of Thoreau because of his precise logic. Logos as well as pathos can be the most intriguing rewarding literary terms, when used correctly.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Re-read the prompt. Tie the ideas promoted by the film to those promoted by Romantic Period authors. RE do.

      Reply
  21. Johanna G.

    Johanna G.
    Keeble
    AP English, Per. 2
    13 December 2012

    The film, The Great Debaters, and the essay, “Civil Disobedience”, by Henry David Thoreau include the fight for social justice. They coalesce with the Romantic Period because in that period, people began to create new ideas just as how the film and essay presented individual thoughts on equality. In the film, Mr. Tolson and his debate team of four traveled around the state of Texas debating several colleges in the hopes of trying to achieve social justice. During the film, Wiley College received the chance to debate an all white school. The team’s argument was that colored students and white students should be allowed to study in the same room, use the same books, and be treated equally. In the essay, “Civil Obedience”, Thoreau argued the same points and demonstrated how having a different opinion was looked at negatively. Because of their individualism and open-mindedness, people now have equal rights.

    Reply
  22. Gonzalo Haro

    Gonzalo Haro

    In the film, The Great Debaters, there are many themes expressed which were also very popular ideas during the Romantic period. One of those ideas, the idea that education is the key to freedom, is widely expressed in the film. In the film, Mr. Tolson’s debate team embark on a journey across many states, beating many major colleges in debates. Mr. Tolson states that his purpose is to educate young Negroes so that they can get their mind back. He argues that slave owners would strike fear into slave’s minds in order to control them, and in order for Negroes to be free they must get their minds back. The Romantic period greatly focused on a higher level of education and intelligence. This all ties back to the film because the young scholars at Wiley college and other Negro universities all strived for education in order to become more equal with Whites.

    Henry David Thoreau encouraged standing up to an oppressive power in a peaceful manner, and the characters from the film were able to do just that with their education. The debaters were able to win debates across major universities and they were able to stand up to the racial injustices revolving schools. They showed everyone that Black people deserved education just as anybody else, and that they could do anything white people could do just as well.

    Reply
  23. Mercedes G.

    Mercedes G.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English
    12/13/12
    In “The Great Debaters” in this one debate Samantha Booke happen to be talking about social injustice, and how nothing worse than looking the mother in her eyes and seeing that she cannot afford to put food on the table. And some people wanted to get rid of welfare which will put families that rely on welfare out in the streets and starving without a roof over their heads. This will make millions of families homeless and starving out on the streets without any care from their own country that caused this by not allowing welfare. I think that a way that this relates to the romantic period because they also have social injustice back in the day also, but just different types of it.

    Reply
  24. Hannah R.

    Hannah Reddy
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English, Period 2
    13 December 2012

    Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” is significant when it comes to the movie, “The Great Debaters”. “Walden” is about Thoreau’s experience of finding out how life is really supposed to be lived, by living in the woods. Thoreau’s philosophy was that living a materialistic life was living a wasteful life. As a result, he lived a life away from society and lived and fulfilled his philosophy. During the film, Henry Lowe takes Samantha Booke on a boat ride across the pond, and as they are talking, she notices something different about him. She described him as being “calm”. The Romantic idea of love of nature and this specific scene goes hand-in-hand. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” (Walden) explains the whole pond scene with Ms. Booke and Mr. Lowe. The scene was simple, peaceful, and all you needed, not what you desired but it was what you needed and that was the teachings of Thoreau.

    Reply
  25. Rachel N.

    Rachel N.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English Language & Composition
    12 December 2012

    In the film, “The Great Debaters,” four Negro college students fight to prove themselves during a racially oppressive society in America during 1935. The Romantic Period ideas, where social justice was being taken under serious consideration and being challenged in the fabricating of society, completely matched with the message of this film. During this time, people were combating with philosophical weapons to prove that everyone is equal regardless of skin color. Traditional ideas were beginning to be questioned and changes were being implemented about what people previously believed about the world and society.
    During the Romantic Period, the Age of Enlightenment took its course. With advances in science, the common accepted belief that God created the world was starting to diminish. Evidence was being uncovered that evolution was the answer and pretty soon, no one could rebuttle the hardcore data that scientists had unveiled. New ideas took place and people started to ponder whether they should believe what people tell them or be allowed to come to their own conclusions about life.
    The characters in the film also took on the position of breaking traditional norms and advocating for their own beliefs. Numerous people during this time would never have thought that a Negro school would debate a white school. They proved that skin color makes no difference whether it’s upholding your duty as an American citizen or displaying sophistication within a society. Both the film and the Romantic Period, conveyed more liberal ideas that were being sparked by many people throughout the nation.

    Reply
  26. Rachael B.

    Rachael B.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 11, Per. 2
    13 December 2012

    The Great Debaters ties into the ideas of the Romantic writer, Henry Thoreau through the actions of fighting for social justice and equality with civil disobedience. Both Thoreau and the movie depicted examples of how each person, writers and characters, defied prejudism and law using nonviolent opposition.
    Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” told of how he was arrested for not paying taxes because he was not in favor of giving his money away in order to support the Mexican-American War. It was something he strongly opposed and was willingly to go to jail for that cause. His essay exemplified the ideas that people should have a conscience of their own and go out and above the law because they disagree with what it presents. His view of social justice meant for the people to refuse conformance to an unjust law or commands of the government, and it could be extended to anything the individual felt was wrong. The walls of a jail cannot imprison a person if the mind is still free to think. Thoreau defied the law for the social justice of a free, unobstructed mind able to oppose something because of the individual’s personal opinion.
    The Great Debaters realistically illuminated Thoreau’s idea to go against an act because it was morally wrong or unjust itself. The character Denzel Washington played was a professor who was also a sharcropper. Sharecroppers all over in that area of Texas believed they were not being treated fairly. This feeling resulted in their meeting to create a plan that would solve the inequality. These sharecroppers were standing up for what they believed in despite the fact that the local sheriff enforcibly prohibited the gathering. This is civil disobedience in favor of equality. The debate team also contributed to the idea. The character James L. Farmer Jr. mentioned how he and his teammates witnessed the lynching of an African American during the debate against Harvard University. He explained how the crowd who committed the act were the criminals since the African American was not given a trial for whatever wrong he did. He then created the opposition that blacks, even personally himself, should be given the right to act with civil disobedience to resist the violence and prejudism exerted towards the race like lynching. Farmer and many others like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi would consider or even put the Romantic idea of civil disobedience to the test to achieve social justice and equality over unjust governments, laws, or prejudism.

    Reply
  27. Tanzeel H.

    Tanzeel Hak
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English, Period 2
    14 December 2012

    One apparent similarity between the Romantic Period and the movie “The Great Debaters” was that education was the key to freedom. The Romantic Period greatly influenced freedom. It was a time, where people strove by themselves as individualists. The key to this freedom was education. If you were well educated you had more freedom to do whatever you chose. You were given more opportunities and Knowledge gave you power. It was considered the greatest gift one could give themselves. In the movie “The Great Debaters” we saw the debate team strive. But what was the root of their very successful encounters with other colleges? It simply was their knowledge. It wasn’t just necessarily what they had learned in school, but also personal experiences. The more they knew about their community and the more they saw the injustices their fellow African Americans were facing the more knowledgeable they became. To inquire the freedom to do whatever you desire, you first have to see the limitations. You have to become knowledgeable about what’s happening around you. Another way the debate team fought for their freedom was by looking at work done by Thoreau and Gandhi. Throughout the movie, even at the end, we saw that the more knowledgeable the characters were the more successful they became. Everyone in the plot were very intelligent, so when they fought for there freedom they were taken seriously. For example, how Dr. James took Melvin B. out of prison. Another thing to point out is that these well educated character fought with words instead of violence because causing violence would not have been as effective and would have created more problems. The debaters are also an example throughout the movie that they became smarter, as their intelligence grew they became closer to freedom. They went from only having one school to debate to many, including the school with the best debate team, Harvard. Their education took away all the limitations.

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  28. Alexis L.

    Alexis L.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 11
    12/13/12
    Im the film “The Great Debaters” Mr. Tolson and his three students face the oppression of racism. The film relates to Henry David Thoreau and the the Romantic Period. They both open the minds of their audience, and bring new ideas. Having your own way of thinking without people tell you what to believe in basically helped the Romantic Period blossom. “The Great Debaters” showed how Mr. Tolson’s three students debated against social injustice in America during the 1930’s. They argued so that white and black students could go to the same school. Thoreau and the film are two great sources that show that peace between cultures is possible.

    Reply
  29. Sarai P.

    Sarai P.
    AP English
    Keeble
    14 December 2012

    The evolution of the mind over time has been rather significant. During times such as the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, and even the Colonial Period, people and their right to free thinking were not accepted nor were they encouraged. Time after time, they were subjected to the forceful hand of authority. Prior to the Romantic Period, a simple threat could disarm any rebellion in the works. But the Romantic Period quickly became a time in which people were no longer afraid to stand up to and demand for their voice, reason, and evidence to be listened to. No longer could injustice be committed without having anyone object. Unlike previous time periods, people had a desire to see social justice prevail.
    In the movie, “The Great Debaters,” barriers are presented to a team of three, originally four, who must learn to overcome them. Being able to do so, is not easy; not only are they facing a closed minded society, but they are also under the brunt of racism.Those obstacles alone, would have made many other African Americans tremble with fear. But because of the desire for social justice to prevail this team of three ignored the odds, and succeeded.

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  30. Raymond P.

    Raymond P.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English, Per. 5
    13 December 2012

    In the film “The Great Debaters” and Mr. Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” shows the fight against social justice. Wiley College, an all Negro school, shows how ignorant humans can be. With four great debaters they had, they showed not only that they are well educated, but as well the same as anyone else. While facing a white college, Wiley’s students argued that they are not different from each other and they should join hands with each other and be equal with each other.
    Thoreau talked about how new ways of thinking and new ideas could be incorporated with society. This ties in with the film because the four students argued, college’s and colored people showed go to the same school. Thoreau would inknowledge this idea for his idea are incorporated in the film.

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  31. Alexia G.

    In the film, “The Great Debaters,” African-Amercian students of Wiley College stand up for their freedoms. There was a strong connection for social justice between the film and the Romantic Era writers. The movie fought simply for equality verbally through debates where the writers fought using literature. Henry David Thoreau, a famous writer during the Romanticism period, used civil disobedience to prove a point thereby influencing these young scholars. Thoreau believed life should be lived simple and peaceful. There was no peace if blacks couldn’t attend universities like whites. Together the debate team and Thoreau were able to accomplish new ways of living and actual equality.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Well done. “Strong connection between” -choose a precise preposition. Look at lived–requires adverbs: simply and peacefully.

      Reply
  32. Veronica V.

    Veronica V.
    Dec. 13, 2012
    Ap English, 1st period

    In the movie, “The Great Debaters,” and Henry David Thoreau’s, “Civil Disobedience,” many themes were visible, but the most that stood out was social injustice. In the film, four African American college students were making history by debating all white schools and winning every debate they had. They debated about how African Americans were being treated unequally and discriminated while Thoreau was debating on how people perceived nature. He not only expresses how it’s wrong to take advantage of nature, but to also try to live a simple life since many people have lived off the land before. Both the film and essay show the social injustices America has faced throughout history.

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  33. Aaron Chon

    Aaron Chon
    Ms Keeble
    AP English 11
    14 December 2012

    The film “The Great Debaters” describes the various challenges faced by the four African American college students in trying to live their lives while carrying the pride of their school on their backs. The causes of many of their troubles are linked to struggles for social justice, having been one of the most pertinent issues for many among the African American population in a time where little to no whites wanted anything to have to do with equality. Such an example in the movie was the lynching of a black man by a white mob, which later became the centerpiece of debater James Farmer Junior’s argument against Harvard, in which he describes the immorality and injustice of a law that allows such atrocities. The Romantic Period saw the rise of many different authors and essay writers who were concerned about the direction of mankind, as well as the illusion of law. Such a one was Henry Thoreau, who believed that the government, which was created for the people, was acting against the interests of the people by performing acts of injustice, such as the Mexican-American War, which he called an action of a stronger nation bullying a weaker one. As a result of his opinion, he was in jail for not paying taxes for the reason of not funding a nation that would act against his interests. While there, he wrote his critically acclaimed work “Civil Disobedience”, which describes the righteousness of the individual and the necessity to break from a government that is not serving his or her interests. The absence of social justice described by Thoreau is one that can no longer be ignored, and requires an effort of individuals to make a change by acting in their own interests and breaking from a government which does not serve them. This idea also relates to the concept of the social contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which describes there being a contract between a government and the governed: the governed consent to being governed in exchange for the government acting in their best interests and protection; in the case that the contract is broken, the governed are no longer governed by the government. Liberal ideas that were demonstrated by Romantic thinkers and the characters in the film were the ones that formed the cornerstone of modern democracy.

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  34. Efrain E

    Efrain E.
    Period 1
    AP English

    The Romantic period was one of the most important periods of literature in the world. The ideas and ideals that were prevalent during that time differed from the norm, and many of those ideas were presented in a film called “The Great Debaters”. One of the important topics in the movie “The Great Debaters” is love of nature. In the film, many of the scenes take place in rural areas, such as swamps, rivers, and forests. One of the sub-plots of the movie is the local sharecroppers’ attempts to form a union and gain rights. The sharecroppers depend on nature for survival, and their love for nature is evident. In addition, many of the main characters in the film live out in remote places, far from the stresses of city life. This kind of lifestyle is one that Henry David Thoreau would have found ideal. Thoreau was a writer that lived during the romantic period, and one of his most well known pieces, “Walden”, is all about his love for nature and how a simple lifestyle out in the country side is an ideal one. Thoreau’s lifestyle and the lifestyle of the characters in “The Great Debaters” are very similar, and they both put emphasis on a love of nature and simplicity.

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  35. Natasha

    Natasha R
    Ap English
    Keeble
    13 December 2012

    In the movie The Great Debaters and Thoreau’s ,”Civil Disobediance”,thoughts are spoken out . In each of these pieces of work, fight for social justice is demonstrated. In “Civil Disobediance” Thoreau mentions that if a law seems unjust then we should not follow it. This same thought is viewed in the movie in different scenarios when the teacher, Mr.Tolson, goes out and tries to help the white and black farmers. Also, another example would be when the debaters felt that African Americans should be allowed to attend white universities. These examples all connect the educational part in the Romantic era, the students stood up for their schooling rights. The students took a stand for what they thought was wrong, just like how Thoreau mentioned about not abiding unjust rules.Overall, the students didn’t let social discrimination stop them from speaking out about their concerns and wants.

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  36. Alicia

    Alicia O.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English
    13 December 2012

    In the film, “The Great Debaters” staring with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker emphasize the experience of a debate team of African Americans from Willey College who go to victory against Harvard. This film along with the essay “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”  by Henry David Thoreau connects with the theme of education being the key to freedom. In the film the teacher, Mr. Tolson, tells his students that when African Americans were slaves the white masters wanted to take hold of their mind and let the African Americans keep their body. In other words  Mr. Tolson is saying that the white masters knew that giving the African Americans education will mean the end of slavery. The white masters had in mind that them having education will get them freedom because for that purpose they wanted to control their minds and keep them dumb. Not only that but this film demonstrated this theme through the three young debaters from Willey College. These three debaters had education in their heads they knew the historical events which helped them in the debates. The education they had is what led them to freedom because they got free from all the discrimination whites had against them. They were free because the education they had managed to make them beat Harvard which proved thatAfrican Americans were the same as whites ; leading to the freedom of the African Americans from the whites. This theme is also shown in the Romantic Period through Thoreau ‘s essay “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”  in the quote ” I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die..” (424) . His education is what made it possible for him to see that we should live a life in a simple way which got him freedom from all the materialistic stuff that surrounds us. In both the film and the Romantic Period education was the key to freedom.

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  37. Dominique

    Dominique
    AP English 11
    Per 2
    December 13, 2012

    The movie “The Great Debaters” and Thoreau’s essay during the Romantic Period both are similar and share many beliefs and ideas. One idea that the Romantic period phrased and I saw demonstrated in the movie that I thought was a really good debate topic was “Individual thought over Social thought.” My group and I were able to talk about and share what we thought this meant, and we each came up with some interesting insightful ideas. This idea was demonstrated multiple times throughout the movie, for example in the last scene when James Farmer Jr. went up to the podium for his last argument point against Harvard University. Farmer discussed his personal experience about the lynching of the negro, and how he felt when he and his teammates experienced the dramatic horror. Throughout the movie, the debaters each have a different personality and mindset with different opinions that may be considered wrong or the opposite of what society sees as right. I think that the personal individual thought is more insightful, interesting, and persuading than a large group’s because usually someone in higher power is the one who influences and gives them that thought. There is usually no analysis or feeling from social thought because it is a general idea. Ideas in Thoreau’s essay also demonstrated “Individual thought over Social thought,” saying that many writers and artists throughout the Romantic Age came up with many works of art that were definitely not the result of society’s thoughts, but one individual’s, who took the time to come up with something different and stunningly beautiful. In conclusion, theses are some ideas of how the idea “Individual thought over Social thought” were both connected to the essay and movie.

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  38. Ross H.

    Ross Hatlen
    Keeble
    period 2
    13 December 2012

    The movie “The Great Debaters” and Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” both show how some laws limit a person and make them conform. In the movie James during his final debate expands on the idea of civil disobedience and how it is just. He brings up the Jim Crow laws which are laws that make black people in the south less of a person. This is a law that it against the idea that Thoreau loved transcendentalism. How is someone going to be themselves, when they have limited rights? They become someone else, in a transcendentalist world they would already be considered dead. This is why in the movie James says that theses laws should not be followed. They would make him and his fellow black people less of a person. Thoreau and James had the same idea that people should be them selves.

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  39. Alicia Gonzales

    Alicia Gonzales
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English 11
    13 December 2012

    In the film “The Great Debaters”, there are many topis presented, but the one that caught my attention the most was education being the key to freedom. This saying was mentioned in the film, and it is something that in many cases I agree with.
    Education being the key to success and freedom connects to the film because throughout the film, it shows how African Americans were treated as inferior, and looked down on. This being the case, it caused some to actually believe negativity about who they were, about the color of their skin. But others, it caused them to rise up, to fight for their rights, and to show that they can do anything a white peron can do, that they are just as great as anybody.
    If people have an education, if they gain knowledge and an understanding for what goes on in their world, of any kind of information, they won’t be ignorant. They’ll learn, they’ll grow, and become individuals filled with wisdom within.
    By having an education, it’ll set them up for job opportunities, a career, and a better life. That is why education is the key to freedom, the key to a life doing what you want to do, what you’re happy doing.

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  40. Destiny Bets

    Destiny Bets
    13 Dec 2012
    Keeble
    Period 5

    I agree with Zoey that both the film, “Great Debaters,” and Thoreau’s essay include many of the same acts from the Romantic Period. For example, like when people back then pushed for more power or “higher power” by boycotting or protesting etc.. In the film, the four colleges students try to prove themselves by debating against white student colleges, fighting against social injustice from a different view not focused on nature like how David Thoreau was in his essay where he states his opinion on social injustice towards nature. Both of these scenarios relate to the Romantic Period because of new ideas that were thought of and supported by the people and all the changes that were made just how the Romantic Period was a period of “great change and emancipation.”

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  41. Rebekah Novak

    Rebekah N.
    AP English
    13 December 2012

    When questioning if education is the key to freedom, Romanticists’ like Henry David Thoreau and William Shakespeare had no doubt that in able express yourself, whether it be through poetry, art, music, and/or drama, one must seek the knowledge needed to gain a better understanding of life. In the movie, “The Great Debtors”, Mr. Tolson and his debating team, travel throughout the 1970’s deep south, not just debating topics and bonding as a team, but using their gift of debating to try and acquire an equal footing with the superior whites.

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  42. Zoey Madsen

    Both the film and Henry David Thoreau’s essay include a brief and strong opinion towards equality and individuality. In the film, The Great Debaters, a different point of view is being pushed to the “higher power” (white men and women). The characters prove themselves and their belief. This ties with the Romantic Period because both the film and the essay present new ways of thinking, and new ideas being brought to the table, thus incorporating the events during the Romantic Period. It was a time when people felt the power they entailed and fought with it. The characters in the film used their intelligence to fight for social justice, and Henry David Thoreau fought for the same thing as well as a peaceful way of living. Henry David Thoreau and the characters in the film were bold and optimistic enough to discover the faults within the government and society. The same self-identifying message being presented throughout the film is the same message that Henry David Thoreau sent through his writing. I think Henry David Thoreau would have been proud of the characters in the movie, because they entailed something that not a lot of people had during that time, self empowerment.

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  43. Rachel N.

    Rachel N.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English Language & Composition
    12 December 2012

    In the film, “The Great Debaters,” four Negro college students fight to prove themselves during a racially oppressive society in in America during 1935. The Romantic Period ideas, where social justice was being taken under serious consideration and being challenged in the fabricating of society, related to the film in various ways. During this time, people were combating with philosophical weapons to prove that everyone is equal. Traditional ideas were beginning to be questioned and changes were being implemented about what people previously believed about the world and society.
    During the Romantic Period, the Age of Enlightenment took its course. With advances in science, the common accepted belief that God created the world was starting to diminish. Evidence was being uncovered that evolution was the answer and pretty soon, no one could rebuttle the hardcore data that scientists had unveiled. New ideas took place and people started to ponder whether they should believe what people tell them or be allowed to come to their own conclusions about life.
    The characters in the film also took on the position of breaking traditional norms and advocating for their own beliefs. Numerous people during this time would never have thought that a Negro school would debate a white school. They proved that skin color makes no difference whether it’s upholding your duty as an American citizen or displaying sophistication within a society. Both the film and the Romantic Period, conveyed more liberal ideas that were being sparked by many people throughout the nation.

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  44. Jasmine J.

    AP English 11, 1st Period
    Ms. Keeble
    12 December 2012

    In the film, The Great Debaters, four students at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas embark on a treacherous journey as Negro debaters attempting to leave their mark on 1935 America. While watching the film, I was able to make several connections between the plot of the story and the ideas of the Romanticism Era thinkers. One connection that stands out is that education as the key to freedom.
    The Wiley College Debate Team was one of the first Negro teams to face an all white university in an debate. They faced Oklahoma City University and the resolution was Negroes should be admitted into state universities and Wiley College argued the affirmative. Miss Samantha Booke argued, “As long as schools are segregated, negroes will receive an education that is both separate and unequal” and then later closed her argument with, “No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality, is always — is always — right now!” She’s implying that if allowing Negroes to get a state university education is a step towards justice, equality, and freedom.

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  45. Jonathan v

    Jonathan V
    Ms.Keeble
    Ap Eng and Comp
    Period 1

    In the film “The Great Debaters” and in David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” a big theme has arrived in my mind, which is the fight against social justice. In Thoreau’s excerpts, there has been big meaning of being socially just with everyone including yourself. One example he shows this is when he was explaining his Simplicity concept, living simple is the best and that extra energy that is not used is put into more things like making for a better community. In the film, when Mr. Framer is arguing against the Harvard students, he brings up his personal life and how there is injustice with the law, how it is targeted against one certain percent of society he pertained to. His debate team’s winning record made may see that they were just not just different people that were only used to work but also made good arguments that made people reflect on their society. People started seeing that their society was biased against only one race, they were being the ones treating the different race like animals when clearly they were humans. Both these informative sources made me open my eyes and see that if there is enough people power, the goal of having a peaceful world is possible, just like the one these visionaries saw and the one that they risked their life to see happen.

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  46. Jessica A

    Jessica A.
    Ms. Keeble
    AP Lang. and Composition, Per. 5
    12 December 12

    In the film, The Great Debaters, Mr. Tolson and his debate team desire to invoke greater thinking into the mind of others. In addition, the debate team– James, Henry, and Samantha– argue for their inalienable rights to achieve social justice amongst everyone in their community, and in other communities as well. Social justice is one recurring pertinent theme which coalesces with Thoreau’s assertions in “Civil Disobedience.”
    In relation to the film, social justice is one aspect of life that the debate team hoped to attain. When they attended a debate in a “white” college, they argued for whites and blacks to join hands, form unions, and perhaps allow both races to be given the same level education. Doing so, they’re arguing for social justice– for everyone to be treated as an equal.
    In “Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau argues that the government is more harmful than it is helpful, and it’s primarily founded on corruption and injustice. In relation to the text, social justice wasn’t a commonly accepted idea, because many individuals of this time were slave owners. If slave-owning was permitted, then the government must have been corrupt. Locke didn’t argue for natural rights for no particular reason, Jefferson didn’t apply Locke’s thinking into the Declaration of Independence without a cause, and Thoreau wouldn’t have stated that the government was corrupt if these “inalienable rights” weren’t dismissed. In both pieces, social justice is one key feature of life that wants to be achieved.

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  47. Thomas T

    Thomas T
    Keeble
    Ap english
    Period 1

    Though the connection between an individual and community isn’t greatly appreciated, it has been shown to affect the world greatly. There is a strong connection between the individual and community shown by Henry David Thoreau and is exemplified through “The Great Debaters”. The film refers back to Gandhi’s influence for non-violent protest from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. Had it not been for one man’s actions, India’s protest would’ve been made infamous in history. Instead, non-violence and civil disobedience had been the deciding factor for India’s independence from Europe. In “The Great Debaters”, the lynching of one African-American had been used as an example in James Farmer Jr’s argument against Harvard and touched the hearts of the many people listening to his argument. The connection to the individual and community creates a connection so strongly developed that although people may disregard it, the relationship is very relevant to our society.

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  48. Elisha Hussain

    Elisha Hussain
    AP English 11, Period: 5
    Ms. Keeble
    December 11, 2012

    Both the film and Henry David Thoreau’s essay fought for social injustice. In the film, the debaters constantly debated and argued with others for freedom from discrimination and limitations. They both initially had their own ways of expressing their fight against social injustice. The debaters in the movie had a different view on social injustice, because they fought for the discrimination and limitation of African Americans in the state universities and other difficulties they went through. On the other hand Thoreau explained the social injustice that was being directed towards nature. Basically both the film and Thoreau’s essay explained how social injustice impacted not just them but also their surroundings.

    Reply
    1. tashak38 (Post author)

      Which essay and what did the essay say specifically. You must include specific references to texts. Push yourself. Alisha. This is well-written, but you need to say more. Be specific.

      Reply
  49. Johan Ocegueda

    Johan Ocegueda
    Ms. Keeble
    AP English
    12 December 2012
    Henry David Thoreau had an incredible way of expressing what he felt. The way he spoke, the way he carefully organized every one of his words to get them into our hearts. One line stuck to me. It says “If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so man.” When I read this I thought back. To all of the horrible things immigrants from all over had to go through in this country. I dont mean just African Americans, I mean Asians, Latinos, almost every single innigrant that exists in the U.S. was once discriminated. I completely agree with him. I also feel that if a certain something is not left to live the way its supposed to. Then that certain thing does not have much of a life. In the movie “The Great Debaters” I ws remineded of the injustices in this world. When the debate teamwas heading somewhere I am not sure, they end up in the woods. They saw an African American getting lynched. Once back home, Henry Lowe and James Farmer Jr. discuss it. James asks what that African American could have had done. Henry says “He didnt have to do nothing.” Back then the African American was not treated right. The African American was not treated as what he was, as a human. He was not let to live his own nature. Back then the African American was not living life, he was just made believe that he was less and didnt even deserve to live. This racist act was a big thing not only in the movie or back when Thoreau was writing, but also in the life we live today.

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