Atlanta, GA 30322
Dobbs U.C., Suite 240E
High School Tournament
The Barkley Forum for High Schools
In 1956, the membership of the Barkley Forum decided to host a tournament for high school debaters. Inviting high schools to debate on the Emory campus provided an opportunity for the students of the university to offer excellent debate competition and judging for high school students. The goal of honoring high school students and their teachers for their commitment to forensics achievement remains the defining purpose of the Barkley Forum for High Schools. Speech and debate have evolved tremendously over the last half-century, and the Barkley Forum acknowledges and welcomes change. However, some fundamental concepts that support forensic excellence remain constant, and the Barkley Forum seeks to honor these traditions. Commitment to pedagogy, dedication to achievement, and respect for the efforts of others define characteristics of a quality forensics education.
Each year, over a thousand students, teachers, school administrators, and college coaches descend on the Emory University campus from 35 states to engage in a variety of forensic events from Dramatic Intepretation to Congressional Debate to Policy Debate. The schedule honors high school teachers for their commitment and dedication at the Key Awards Assembly. The Barkley Forum remains one of the most prestigious events in high school forensic competition, annually receiving hundreds more applicants than space allows entry. The last day of the tournament features a series of exhibitions of the various forensic arts performed in packed auditoriums on the Emory campus. This day culminates in the Procession of the Keys, the Hall of Champions Debate, and the Final Awards Assembly.
The first team to win the Barkley Forum was Woodlawn High School from Birmingham, Alabama. And though the tournament has changed over the years, respect for the traditions of the past begin with honoring past winners in the Hall of Champions.
To see the hall of champions, click here.
The Barkley Forum is held annually, typically during the last weekend of January. The tournament hosts six speech events, Congressional Debate, Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, Policy Debate. The speech events are: Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, (foreign and domestic in one division), Original Oratory, Duo Interpretation, and Prose & Poetry.
For further information regarding the tournament, go to the Joy of Tournaments website here.
1963 also marked the first year that the Barkley Forum awarded Memberships, or Chairs, to high schools. Memberships are another way of honoring quality performance in the past. Over two hundred thirty-one schools have been awarded chairs since 1964. The majority of chairs retain active memberships, attending the Barkley Forum for High Schools every year.
To see a list of Barkley Forum member schools, click here.
Gold Key Society
In 1964, the Barkley Forum, under the direction of Glenn Pelham, former coach of BFHS winner Cairo High School (1959), began to invite successful high school coaches into an honor society known as the Key Society. The most prestigious presentation made by the Barkley Forum is the presentation of the Gold Key. Each year the members of the self-perpetuating Key Society invite a select number of debate teachers from schools across the nation into membership in a ceremony held during the Barkley Forum for High Schools.
To visit a listing of the Key Coaches of the Barkley Forum, click here.
Silver Key Awards
In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Barkley Forum for High Schools in 1980, the Forum began to award the prestigious Silver Key to first place winners in all events at the BFHS. The Silver Key is a small sterling silver emblem duplicating the design of the prestigious Gold Key award to the coaches of the Gold Key Society. The silver key has no engraving representing its timeless respect for forensics winners past, present, and future.
The Trophy Key
The Barkley Forum awards keys as trophies as part of a unique tradition passed down by former Director Glenn Pelham. The Barkley Forum Trophy is a larger key cast from an antique brass key hidden in Georgia before Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. The original key was found and donated to Emory University's Barkley Forum by Susan and Thomas Glenn Pelham. Nashville attorney Larry David Woods, a distinguished alumnus of Emory and former President of the Forum and of the national forensics fraternity Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha gave a grant to have Keys cast each year from the original key.