Tennessee February 04, 2017
History Has Forgotten This Bizarre Tennessee Trial From Almost A Century Ago
The Scopes Monkey Trial had one of the biggest effects on state and federal intervention in 1925, but the reality of the Tennessee decision has been largely forgotten as 92 years swept by. It was on June 10th, 1925 that a new textbook was adopted by the state, one that denied the theory of evolution. One month later the court heard a case against a John T. Scopes, a biology teacher who held fast to the separation of church and state and taught evolution alongside the creation theory – and the whole nation heard.
This photograph is of Dayton, Tennessee, just a month before the beginning of the trial. It would come to be known as the hotbed of church and state differentiation.
John T. Scopes was in direct violation of Tennessee state curricula when he taught evolution and creationism both as theories in his classroom, and it wasn't long before parents and other teachers made his indiscretion known.
Clarence Darrow, a famous Chicago lawyer, and William Jennings Bryan, defender of Fundamentalism, have a friendly chat in a courtroom during the Scopes evolution trial. Darrow defended John T. Scopes in the court trial which took place in Dayton, Tennessee. Bryan took the stand for the prosecution as a Bible expert.
Here you can see the seven scientists who were asked to testify for the defense. They are sitting outside of what became known as the "Defense Mansion." It was where the defense team and witnesses stayed during the course of the trial.
Here's a shot of the Rhea County Courthouse, the lynchpin in the court decision.
John Scopes was found guilty in court in 1925, mainly due to the fact that he broke the Tennessee state law that banned the teaching of evolution. The law had made it illegal to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from the lower order of animals."
On July 20th, the heat was so intense that Judge Raulston moved the court OUTSIDE. You can see the crowd that has gathered, as well as William Jennings Bryan seated to the left, being interrogated by Darrow. It was on July 21st that Scopes was found guilty and told to pay $100 for his contempt of state law.
In 1927 the verdict was overturned on a technicality, though the Scopes Monkey Trial has come to be regarded as one of the most intensely debated situations in Tennessee history. It's especially interesting to southern states, a region that is known for mixing church and state quite liberally. The town of Dayton still holds a festival every year and a reenactment of the trials - but do you remember?
What an interesting case, hey? Would you visit during their summer fairs? If you’re still on a history jab, check out these rare and
beautiful photos of Tennessee in the 1980’s.