In July of 1925, the Scopes trial began and made history for teachers. Also known as the Monkey Trial, it came about because of John Scopes’, a 24-year-old biology teacher, violation of the Butler Act. The Butler Act was a state law in Tennessee forbidding the teaching of theories that denied the story of creation as stated in the bible in public schools or universities in Tennessee that is funded by the state. Any teacher found doing so would be fined $100-$500. The Butler Act came about by a farmer who served on state legislature and said that the nation was built based on the Bible. Evolution denied this story and being taught, would destroy principle’s of this country. After this law was passed, the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to help teachers. Once the ACLU heard of Scopes’ trouble, they decided to pursue this as a test case. A local engineer recommended that the ACLU help Scopes. Scopes was arrested in school and sent to a appear before a grand jury.
Three-time Democratic Presidential candidate and religious fundamentalist, William Jennings Bryan, was sent to work for the prosecution with A.T. Stewart. Clarence Seward Darrow, a well-known attorney, in fact, the most famous in the country at the time, was the defense attorney. He was only interested in the case after he learned of Bryan’s involvement. During the case, Tennessee got much recognition. People fled from across the country and filled up hotels just to witness this trial. It was the most popular trial at the time. Scopes received much unwanted national press. For example, people seemed out to get him when as one girl, a student of his, asked him to walk her out and at the end of the walk, she kissed him, and at the moment, flood lights and cameras went off. There was much viciousness toward him inflicted by fundamentalists.
The trial took an ugly turn when Darrow called Bryan as a witness and gave a thorough interrogation. He asked questions which were in answered in such a fashion, that people were led to believe that Bryan was not the fundamentalist he claimed to be. In the end, Scopes was found guilty and fined. The Scopes trial set people against one another and changed how science would be taught in the future.
The Scopes trial was negative to history because it came across as a waste of time. It seemed the objective was not to regulate curriculum, but rather to make a fool of the people involved. It also set groups against each other which cause tension.
“Scopes is convicted and fined $1000 (later reversed on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court). July 26 Bryan dies, supposedly as a result of the strain of the fundamentalist versus modernist trial, in which he has been subjected to a withering examination by Darrow…” (Webster’s Guide to American History p423.)