The National Debate Tournament (NDT) began in 1947 at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Twenty-nine schools competed at the first NDT debating: "Resolved: That labor should be given a direct share in the management of industry". It remained at West Point until 1967 when it was assumed by the American Forensic Association in part because of the Vietnam War. Since then the tournament has moved to different member schools each year and only three schools have hosted it twice.
In the first NDT, teams were nominated by committees from their district. This was soon replaced with district qualifying tournaments. At-large bids were offered beginning in 1968 and in 1971 the rules were amended to assign at large bids prior to district qualifying tournaments (to prevent at-large teams from knocking out teams in qualifiers) Until 1970, a school could only send one team to the NDT. When the rule was changed the tournament quickly grew to 74 teams. Since 1992, a limited number of schools, currently six, have been allowed to send a third team. Today, 78 two-person teams attend the NDT; 16 are selected in the first-round at-large process, 46 through the district selections, and 16 in the second-round at-large process.