[eDebate] Black Debate History

Israel Pastrana i_pastrana
Thu Apr 2 22:00:18 CDT 2009

Hi Adam,

I appreciated your question?though like Sarah I?m also skeptical about how representative the experiences of the most successful debaters would be of a broader (and much longer) ?Black History in debate?.?In addition to Sarah?s suggestion, I?d also add that you think about other sites where black debate history was made.? In the early to mid 1940s, while black civil rights organizations like the Civil Rights Congress and NAACP campaigned for a double victory against the forces of racism at home and abroad, HBCU?s sponsored a number of inter-collegiate debates where students discussed pressing, and perhaps even anxiety producing issues such as race, empire, and colonialism.? For instance, check out the scene described in the California Eagle, at the time the largest black
newspaper on the West Coast:

Lincoln Students to Debate British on Empire April 19

New York?Cambridge University of England will send a debating team against Lincoln University of Oxford Pa., under the sponsorship of the United Negro College Fund here on Saturday afternoon, April 19, at Times Hall 240 West 44th street, William J. Trent Jr., executive director of the Fund, announced yesterday.

The British will oppose the resolution that ?the formal dissolution of the British Empire would contribute to the maintenance of world peace.?

Coming two days after the Fund launches its nation-wide appeal for $1,300,000 to meet current operating costs in 33 Negro private colleges, the international debate will focus attention upon the preparation these colleges are giving the 30,000 students attending them.

Lincoln is the oldest Negro college in American and Cambridge is the second oldest institution in England.

The Cambridge men arrived here on Mach 21 to engage 19 American universities in debate on an assortment of subjects.? Through the cooperation of the Institute for International Education, the Fund was able to arrange for them to meet the Lincoln team shortly before the return voyage to England on April 21.

The British team comprises of Nan S. Lloyd 26, of Natal, Union of South Africa, student in economics; and William Richmond, 28, of Cambridge, student in history.? Lincoln?s two men will be selected from among these three students: James Young, 22, Newark, junior in pre-law; Gayride Wilmore, 25, of Philadelphia, senior in theology; and Abdool Marraj, 20, of Demarara, British Guinea, sophomore in pre-law.

I never followed up on this, so I don?t know whether Abdool made the team or not, but I wonder what role his ?situated knowledge? of British colonialism and empire would have played in the debate.? In a time when anti-discrimination measures were enacted only as a wartime necessity, and when those same necessities could be interpreted to justify the mass incarceration of ethnic Japanese, that a debate over these issues and between these individuals took place at all speaks to the transformative and transgressive power of the activity.

Hope this helps,

Israel Pastrana
Ph.D. student, history department
University of California, San Diego


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