Inspired by the 14 year old genius of James Farmer, Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr.

When I watched the trailers for The Great Debaters, I wondered why they cast such a young actor (Denzel Whitaker) to play James Farmer, Jr.  Once I saw the movie, I learned that Farmer was only 14 years old when he entered Wiley College. 

He later founded CORE -the Congress of Racial Equality- at the age of 21.  He was known as one of the "Big Four" of the Civil Rights Movement along with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., NAACP chief Roy Wilkins and Urban League head Whitney Young.

I also came across some of Dr. King's writings where he recalls an oratory contest that he won when he was 14 years old.  King entered Morehouse college the next year at the age of 15.  

The following passage is from the Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.  

When I was fourteen, I traveled from Atlanta to Dublin, Georgia, with a dear teacher of mine, Mrs. Bradley. I participated in an oratorical contest there and I succeeded in winning the contest.

My subject, ironically enough, was "The Negro and the Constitution."

We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one-tenth of the people ill-nourished, sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color lines—obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime. We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flout the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule. We cannot come to full prosperity with one great group so ill-delayed that it cannot buy goods. So as we gird ourselves to defend democracy from foreign attack, let us see to it that increasingly at home we give fair play and free opportunity for all people.

Today thirteen million black sons and daughters of our forefathers continue the fight for the translation of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments from writing on the printed page to an actuality. We believe with them that "if freedom is good for any it is good for all," that we may conquer Southern armies by the sword, but it is another thing to conquer Southern hate, that if the franchise is given to Negroes, they will be vigilant and defend, even with their arms, the ark of federal liberty from treason and destruction by her enemies.

That night, Mrs. Bradley and I were on a bus returning to Atlanta. Along the way, some white passengers boarded the bus, and the white driver ordered us to get up and give the whites our seats. We didn't move quickly enough to suit him, so he began cursing us.

I intended to stay right in that seat, but Mrs. Bradley urged me up, saying we had to obey the law. We stood up in the aisle for ninety miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.

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