The Scopes Trial

A Photographic History

  • Author(s): Caudill, Edward, Edward J. Larson, and Jesse Fox Mayshark
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2000-08-23
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $19.95 | Buy Now

It was a big story in a small place. During the summer of 1925, the tiny hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee, became the setting for one of the most controversial trials in American history. In a move designed partly as a publicity scheme and partly as a means to test a newly enacted anti-evolution law, a young teacher named John Thomas Scopes agreed to be arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of natural selection in the public schools. The resulting courtroom showdown pitted Clarence Darrow, the brilliant trial lawyer and self-proclaimed agnostic, against Williams Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate and fundamentalist Christian. For twelve days all eyes focused on Dayton as a spirited public debate unfolded.

Published on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Scopes trial, this book vividly recalls that famous episode through an array of fascinating archival photographs, many of them never before published. Images of the circus-like atmosphere that overtook Dayton during the trial alternate with candid photos of the key players. The accompanying text and captions summarize the events and clarify the underlying issues of the trial. While the legal consequences of the trial were minuscule—it ended in Scopes’s conviction, which was later overturned on a technicality—its symbolic importance was enormous, defining the science-religion debate in the twentieth century.

In addition to revisiting the Scopes trial, the book also examines its continuing legacy in Tennessee history, politics, religion, and education. Although the 1925 law was finally repealed in 1967, state legislators have made subsequent efforts to challenge the teaching of evolution. “Like life itself,” notes Edward Caudill in his introduction, “the controversy does not simply stop, but keeps evolving.”

The Contributors: Edward Caudill is associate dean for graduate studies and research in the College of Communications at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the author of Darwinian Myths: The Uses and Misuses of a Theory.

Edward J. Larson is Richard B. Russell Professor of History and professor of law at the University of Georgia. His book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for history.

Jesse Fox Mayshark is senior editor of Metro Pulse, a weekly newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee.