Scopes Monkey Trial

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Scopes Monkey Trial

Perhaps one of the most famous trials in our history was that of the John Scopes. Scopes was a high school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee and was arrested because he was teaching the theory of evolution in his high school biology class. During the 1920's it was against the law in Tennessee to teach anything other than the theory of creation as written in the Bible. These laws were a result of a strong fundamentalist movements spreading throughout the United States. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) volunteered to defend any teacher willing to challenge these laws concerning the teaching of evolution. John Scopes agreed to their challenge, and after teaching Darwin's theory of evolution Scopes arrest duly followed.

The trial began on July 10, 1925. The prosecution consisted of Thomas Stewart, the Attorney General of Tennessee who was assisted by a famous politician and orator Williams Jennings Bryan. The defense team put together by the ACLU consisted of Clarence Darrow, Dudley Field Malone, and Arthur Hayes. Judge John F. Raulston presided over the trial.

The Scopes Trial became known as the "Monkey Trial" because most people believed that evolution dealt with the theory that humans descended from monkeys. The whole trial was widely publicized and made the little town of Dayton, Tennessee a booming city. Journalists and photographers poured into the little town and the "monkey trial" became an instant sensation! Most of the coverage focused on the heated debate between Darrow and Bryan on the issue strict interpretation of the Bible. The issue had become more than just what was taught in high school curriculum but became an attack on the whole fundamentalism movement.

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