Black Teens Make History by Winning International Debate Contest at Harvard

Jayla Jackson and Emani Stantion discuss their historical victory at the Harvard Summer Debate Tournament (Credit: ABC News)

Two black girls from Atlanta, GA recently pulled off an enormous feat when they won Harvard University’s summer debate competition. Jayla Jackson, 16, and Emani Stanton, 17, took the top prize after beating out the other teams.


In an announcement on Instagram, the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project wrote:

#BlackGirlMagic We did it AGAIN! 🏆🏆🏆🏆 Our 4th consecutive championship win was brought home to Atlanta by Jayla & Emani with an #UNDEFEATED record as they became the FIRST EVER Black girl duo to win Harvard’s international debate competition against over one hundred debaters from around the world.

They have shown the world what’s possible when the playing field is leveled!

Every summer, the Harvard Debate Council hosts a residential program for hundreds of young students from over 15 countries to participate. Over two weeks, these students engaged in “intensive study, which culminates in a program-wide debate tournament” according to Black Enterprise. Jackson and Stanton discussed their victory with ABC News last week in the video below:

The Harvard Diversity Project, which was founded by Brandon P. Fleming, a decorated Harvard debate coach, is designed to get more minority students involved in debate.

From Black Enterprise:

Fleming recruits underserved Black youth in Atlanta with little to no prior debate experience. He trains them every weekend for one year in Atlanta leading up to the Harvard summer program, exposing them to higher level academic disciplines. In four years, Fleming has raised over $1 million to enroll over 100 African-American students into the Harvard debate residency on full scholarship. All four cohorts trained by Fleming’s unique curriculum have gone on to win the international debate competition at Harvard.


Jackson and Stanton won the Atlanta-based team’s fourth consecutive championship. The topic being debated was: “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.”

Fleming noted that the program goes beyond just debate and that “the achievements of this program and our scholars reveals to the world the power of educational equity” and that they “want to use our platform to show people what’s possible when the playing field is leveled for those who need it most.”

Stories like these highlight the many successes that are being accomplished by black Americans. Indeed, these types of reports should be getting far more coverage and attention. Unfortunately, most of the media is not invested in the advances being made in the black community.

Indeed, the majority of media outlets would rather portray black Americans as helpless race-baiting thugs looking for handouts. Black excellence is not on their radar because it would subvert the anti-black narrative they wish to foist on their audience. Nevertheless, what Jackson and Stanton achieved is remarkable, and it is clear these two girls will accomplish much in their lives.


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