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Wiley College debaters take up affirmative action, a nod to native son James Farmer Jr.

Walter Albertin
Humanities Texas

This week, Marshall, Texas is celebrating Civil Rights pioneer and native son James Farmer Jr. who founded the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. It’s an organization that had a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.

The week concludes with a two-night exhibition debate on the topic of affirmative action between Wiley College and Southern Methodist University. The director of forensics for Wiley College Chris Medina says affirmative action was the brainchild of James Farmer Jr.

“Affirmative action was taken to President Johnson by James Farmer Jr. and they collaborated on the idea together to make it what it is today. So the fact that this came from one of our most illustrious alums is really, really special to us,” Medina said, who has been Wiley’s debate coach for five years amassing 2,000 awards in that time.

Wiley College sophomore Ta’mara Hill is preparing a series of speeches on affirmative action. She will have to take positions on both sides of the issue. The debates on Friday and Saturday will take place at the historic Harrison County Courthouse. Hill says it’s an honor to debate in its majestic courtroom.

“Debating in the courthouse will be out of a dream because I’ve always been a history and political nerd. To debate somewhere where I’m literally standing in a place where history has been made before me is amazing,” Hill said, who is studying sociology at Wiley.

The debates begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Wiley College’s storied debate team recently won the national debate championship for Pi Kappa Delta. That’s the same organization that did not recognize its historic win over University of Southern California in 1935 that set the stage for the 2007 film “The Great Debaters.”

The Texas Historical Commission recently approved a historical marker for James Farmer Jr. in Marshall.

On Thursday, April 28, the documentary on the life of Farmer, “The Good Fight” will be screened at Paramount Theater in Marshall beginning at 6 p.m. 

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