Based on the true story of Mel Tolson, considered one of the great African American poets and in the 1930's a professor at the historically black Wiley College in Texas. Washington will also play Tolson, who inspired his students to form the college's first debating team, which went on to defeat Harvard in national championships. They had a young 14-year-old freshman on the team by the name of James Farmer, Jr., who labors in the shadow as a son of a distinguished professor at Wiley College. James's father was the 1st Negro Ph.D in Texas and speaks seven languages. It is apparent he comes from a well-educated family, when he begins college at the young age of 14. Whitaker will play the father of one of the students, who finds himself competing with the debate coach for the loyalties of his son.