A team of African American students known as ‘The Atlanta Great Debaters’ won the championship title for the international Harvard debate competition for the third time in a row this year. The team defended and competed against students from more than 25 countries in this year’s event held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Madison Webb, the first Black female student and sophomore Christian Flournoy, the youngest Black male student to win the competition led the team to secure their third consecutive Harvard debate competition victory.
The students, who are part of the Harvard Diversity Project (HPD) reportedly spend their entire weekends all year to study just to compete against the brightest minds in the world.
Founded by Brandon Fleming, Harvard’s assistant debate coach, the Atlanta-based Harvard Diversity Project serves as an educational equity initiative for the university. The program recruits about 25 Black youth each year.
According to reports, on Saturdays, students undergo a rigorous 10-month training routine, where they are introduced to debate through the exploration of academic disciplines that foster critical thinking, public speaking, and argumentation.
The HDP program usually climaxes with a summer residency at Harvard College, where students study academic debate alongside and compete against hundreds of exceptional scholars from around the world. But, that could not happen this year as it was all done online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to 11Alive, the program targets high school students who have never been exposed to academic debate. Fleming trains them in Atlanta for one year and sends them to compete at Harvard against elite debaters from around the world.
“HDP has been teaching students for three years. The program has become known for positioning Black youth to receive full scholarships to Ivy League and elite colleges and universities”.