In 2007, Denzel Washington starred in the film The Great Debaters as he portrayed Melvin B. Tolson, the renowned debate team coach of Wiley College. The biographical film depicted the 10-year streak that Wiley College earned under Tolson's direction as well as his strides in integrating previously-segregated collegiate debates.

Along with the release of the film, Washington made a donation to the institution through his Denzel Washington Family Fund with an initial $1 million, paying out $100,000 every year in order to help relaunch and revitalize the debate team that was dismantled after Tolson left in 1947. In 2018, they renewed that same commitment.

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Early in July, the Texas-based HBCU announced that the Washington family donated its fourth installment of $100,000 for this round of donations to “cover signing up debate team representatives who want to embrace the challenge of membership. Additionally, money is used to fund their scholarships.”

“We are grateful for the Washington family’s generosity for 15 years and counting to Wiley College’s phenomenal debate team, which, because of this support, can live out our motto to ‘Go forth Inspired,’” added Dr. Herman J. Felton, President of Wiley College. “Being a dominant force as home of The Great Debaters makes us a very attractive option for those skilled in debate, and this financial support further amplifies the benefits of becoming a Wiley debate scholar.”