Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society


In the birthplace of the film, “The Great Debaters,” four B-CU students from the Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society participated in the First National HBCU Speech and Debate Tournament in Marshall, Texas. On the campus of Wiley College, Ashlyn Denson, Nica McConico, Jacqualyn Townsend and Breonn Terry gave outstanding performances among many of their peers from participating HBCUs. The students competed in the categories of speech and debate, poetry interpretation, dramatic interpretation, slam poetry and prose interpretation. Ashlyn Denson and Nica McConico were tournament finalists. 

The Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society trains students in the art and science of forensic speech. Skill development and training include: critical and logical thinking, issue and evidence analysis and synthesis; research, technical writing, cross-examination, persuasion, oral communication skills, public speaking and debate ethics.

Dr. Claudette McFadden, professor and director, B-CU Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society, Dr. Bridgett Rahim-Williams, professor and director, B-CU Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society, and Dr. Julius John, director of theater and associate professor, speech communication and theater arts accompanied the students as faculty and mentor coaches for the tournament. "We are extremely proud of our students!” said the coaching team. 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the "Great Debaters" movie. Denzel Washington attended the awards banquet honoring the student champions and commemorating the first-ever national HBCU Speech and Debate tournament. 

For more information about the Thurgood Marshall Speech and Debate Society, contact Dr. Claudette McFadden, mcfaddec@cookman.edu386-481-2753 or Dr. Rahim-Williams, rahimwilliamsfb@cookman.edu386-481-2596.

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Ursula James

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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