The film is The Great Debaters, which not only stars Denzel Washington but is also directed by him.
Melvin Beaunorus Tolson was born in Missouri in 1898. Son of a Methodist minister his family moved around between Iowa and Missouri. In 1922 he married Ruth Southall while in college.He graduated with honors from Linoln University in Pennsylvania.
After graduating he and his wife moved to Marshall, Texas where Melvin B. Tolson would began teaching Speech and English at Wiley College. After a short leave to begin pursuing his masters degree at Columbia University in 1930, Tolson returned to Wiley College and not only taught but also worked with an award winning debate team. The crowning achievement of Tolson's debate team was their National Championship win in 1935, beating Harvard in the final debate.
Tolson was also known for his writing particularly his poetry. In 1947 he began teaching at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. That same year, Tolson's poetry became recognized more after becoming the poet laureate of Liberia. Tolson also served a 4-year term as Mayor of Langston in the 1950s as well.
Tolson's died of cancer surgery 1966 and was buried in Langston, but his legacy lives on through his writing, and the influence he had over the man students through out the years of teaching.
In addition to Denzel Washington, the film's cast also includes Oscar winner Forest Whitiker, Kimberly Elise, and young star Denzel Whitaker (who's actually named after Denzel Washington).
This biographical film, in conjunction with his portrayl of Frank Lucas in American Gangster, could certainly earn Washington some critical awards attention for his portrayl of this Real (Reel) Person.