Frog Forensic Fraternity: Breaking barriers with “The Great Debaters”

In late November 1934, a group of TCU students chose the name Frog Forensic Fraternity for the forensics and debate society they were forming with sponsorship from faculty member Dr. Allen True. The new FFF, as the society was nicknamed in Skiff newspaper headlines, didn’t take long to become a subject of news.

Wiley College: Building a powerhouse debate team in a segregated country

In March 1935, just months after its founding, the all-white TCU team hosted a team from Wiley College, a historically Black institution in Marshall, Texas, some 185 miles east of Fort Worth. The meeting was the first interracial debate to be held on a Southern college campus.

Wiley College's Historic "Great Debaters"

The Skiff student newspaper reported that seats to view what it called “the mixed debate” would cost 25 cents each, and a section of the auditorium was to be “set off” for Black community members who attended. The debate at TCU also included a musical performance by students from Fort Worth’s Terrell High School, which opened in 1882 as the city’s first Black school (and closed in 1973).

Wiley’s debaters were on the first leg of a westward trip, which included invitations to debate at the University of New Mexico and at the University of Southern California. Wiley’s team had selected the proposition “that the nations should agree to prevent the international shipment of arms and munitions” as the topic of their debates.