Local debate team dominates Harvard competition for 3rd straight year

Local debate team dominates Harvard competition for 3rd straight year
Atlanta's "Great Debaters" celebrate their 3rd consecutive victory (Christopher House/Harvard Diversity Project)

ATLANTA — If winning once is great, winning twice in a row is impressive, then what is winning for a third straight time?

Atlanta’s “Great Debaters”, a team of Atlanta high school students won the Atlanta-based Harvard Diversity Project’s International Debate Competition for a third consecutive year.

The team, comprised of Black Atlanta area teens who spent multiple weekends preparing for the competition, were led by rising senior Madison Webb of Langston Hughes High School and Christian Flournoy of the Westminster School. Both Webb and Flournoy made campus history by being the youngest male and female to win the competition, which they won on an impressive 5-0 -- a perfect ballot.

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The Harvard Diversity Project was started by the university’s assistant debate coach Brandon Fleming as an educational equity initiative for the Massachusetts-based school. It targets minority teens who have never been exposed to academic debate, recruiting roughly 25 new students each year.

Harvard hosts a summer debate program for gifted students from over 25 countries around the world.

For the Atlanta students, Fleming trains them for one year and then sends them to Harvard to compete against debate students from all over the world.

This year, the competition and judging was done virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Harvard debate program is designed to position Black students to receive full scholarships to Ivy League and elite post-secondary education.

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