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Emani Stanton, Jayla Jackson are 1st Black female duo to win Harvard debate competition

They’re the first Black female duo to win the annual contest, and their victory is the fourth time an Atlanta team has won.

A duo of young Black women has made history in winning the international debate competition at Harvard University. 

Emani Stanton and Jayla Jackson, both from Atlanta, are the first Black female duo to win the illustrious annual summer debate contest, and their victory marks the fourth time an Atlanta-based team has won.

The official Instagram page of the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project made the announcement, writing, “Black Girl Magic, we’ve done it again!” The project recruits and trains Black youth to participate in the annual event. 

According to its website, the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project is an Atlanta-based pipeline program that recruits, trains and matriculates highly-motivated Black youth into a summer debate residency at Harvard College. HDCDP cultivates scholars seeking to further their education at elite colleges and universities.

Stanton and Jackson won with an undefeated record in 10 rounds, competing against youth from 15 countries. 

Stanton, who is 17, attends North Atlanta High School, while Jackson, 16, attends Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. “It is still mind-blowing for us,” Jackson told 11Alive News. “We went in there, and we did it.”

The topic of the debate on which the two took the prize: “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.” 

Emani Stanton and Jayla Jackson, both from Atlanta, are the first Black female duo to win the annual debate contest. Their victory is the fourth time an Atlanta team has won. (Instagram)

“Every time we would win a round, the pressure just got more and more,” said Stanton. “Jayla would pray for us, and her faith got me through it.”

The young women — a senior and junior, respectively — were given access to Harvard that they may not have had otherwise through the diversity project, which was created in 2017. 

“The achievements of this program and our scholars reveal to the world the power of educational equity,” HDCDP founder Brandon P. Fleming said in a statement. “We want to use our platform to show people what’s possible when the playing field is leveled for those who need it most.”

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