African American Debate Team Makes History

Chris Randall and Elijah Smith

Teams from 80 colleges and universities competed in the National Debate Tournament held on the campus of Indiana University. Debaters Chris Randall and Elijah Smith represented Rutgers University-Newark in the competition. The university has only had a debate team for the past six years. Randall and Smith made it to the top eight but were eliminated in the quarter finals by a team from Georgetown University that went on to win the championship.

Randall and Smith, both rising seniors at Rutgers University-Newark, were ranked fifth in the nation for the 2013-14 debate season. This is the highest-ranked position ever obtained by a team of African American debaters.

Smith, who grew up in Newark, started debating in high school. “It was weird going to tournaments and not seeing people who look like you, getting judged by people who don’t look like you, who don’t necessarily hold the same views or come from the same cultural tradition as you,” he said.

Randall, who is from Baltimore, met Smith while they were high school debaters. He says that his background gives him an edge. “A lot of people who debate gun policy have never had a friend shot. You need to bring people to where you are in order for them to understand it.”

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