The Martin & Coretta Scott King Debate Tournaments

January NYCUDL Tournaments

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In the month of January we celebrate one of the greatest debaters and speakers of all - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He became known for his public speaking ability and was part of the school’s debate team. MLK continued debate in college at Morehouse. And the rest is history. MLK became one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, and the greatest orator and public speaker in American History. He used the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience inspired by Gandhi and his religious beliefs. MLK received the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and MLK Day is a US federal holiday.


Additionally we celebrate Corretta Scott King - American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. Coretta Scott King also helped lead the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and as an accomplished singer, often incorporated music into her civil rights work.  King has been referred to as “First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.” After her husband’s assassination in 1968, she expanded her role in the civil rights movement and also became active in the Women’s Movement. King founded the King Center and sought and succeeded to make MLK's birthday a national holiday.


While medals, trophies, awards and winning records are all nice in debate. They are only plastic and fancy titles. The most critical lesson in debate is how you can use the power of speech and debate for good. If you are just using debate for wins and trophies - you are losing out on the most important benefit of speech and debate - the power to change the world. Or even worst - being silent in the face of injustice, wrong and evil. That is the most important lesson of debate - to speak out, to not be silent, to listen to others, to question others, to work with others, to communicate with others, to respect the opinions of others, and to peacefully persuade others on your opinions.


And so in January we dedicate all our tournaments to the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and every other civil rights activist past and present who are changing the world with their words. And that is why we host the January MLK Debates to inspire our next generation of civil rights leaders. Because every day and every moment we must speak out in the face of injustice.


The MLK Debates will be a traditional NYCUDL Debate Tournament with 3 rounds and an awards ceremony. Special MLK books will be awarded to top speakers of the tournament. All participants of the MLK Tournament will receive MLK Day stickers and pins.


The MLK Debates are not just for debaters but also for the community. Volunteer judges make all our debates possible. So please come by to learn more about the NYC Urban Debate League. We provide judge training and orientation for all new volunteers before the tournament begins.

Tournament Awards

  • All participants receive a Black History Month Bookmark
  • Top 10 speakers in each division will receive our regular Top Speaker Medal as well as James Daley's "Great Speeches by African Americans," which includes speeches by MLK, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Thurgood Marshall, Barack Obama, Marcus Garvey, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells - Barnett, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, WEB Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and many many more! 
  • MLK Speech Scholarship. Starting next year we will hold a supplemental African American History Speech Contest. Students can select any African American History speech (MLK, Malcolm X, etc) and memorize and/or recite a 3-5 minute speech.  Preliminary Round will be held at our office. Finalistis will compete on MLK Tournament day! 
  • and more special prizes coming up!


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