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Atlanta High School Students Take Over Harvard Debate Competition

Atlanta high schoolers took home academic glory after winning a Harvard Debate Tournament.

The Atlanta Journal- Constitution reported the second victory led at the international competition hosted by the Harvard Debate Council. The Great Debaters dominated amongst 400 scholarly competitors around the world. However, it was Keith Harris and Don Roman Jr. who walked away with the "win for their city" at the end of the two-week program. Harvard Diversity Project Founder and assistant debate coach at Harvard Brandon P. Fleming explained:

“It sends a message to the world to what African American youth are capable of, if they are given access and opportunities. Most of our students have never been exposed to the power of academic debate. Knowing that they will compete against hundreds of scholars who have years of debate experience, combined with the benefit of private and prep schools to their advantage, we seek to level the playing field by introducing our students to higher level academic disciplines that are typically unavailable in traditional school settings.”


Fleming takes pride in his decision to organize his teams based on Atlanta students with zero debate experience. Training for 10 months against various other students is what prepared the teens for this day. Though they were eager to participate, winning everything still came as a shock for Harris (Westlake High School).

"I figured we would get to the Top 16. But once we broke the Top 16, we rose to the occasion in every debate. We just kept getting better and better. The fact that this pulled all of this out of us is incredible."

Whether taking home the glory was expected or not, Roman (North Atlanta High School) is overjoyed to represent his generation in a such a positive way.

“This is the moment that we’ve worked so hard for. Our accomplishment is far bigger than us. We are showing the world what black youths are capable of achieving when given equal access, exposure, and opportunities. This win is for our ancestors, our city, and most of all our culture.”

Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution