In Search of History: The Monkey Trial
In the summer of 1925, history was made in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee. The issue at hand was the "Butler Law," which forbid the teaching of evolution in public schools. The fledgling American Civil Liberties Union wanted to challenge the law's constitutionality and chose to test it with the trial of John Scopes, a young high-school math and gym teacher who briefly taught Darwinism as a substitute biology teacher. The quiet procedural matter exploded into a media carnival when two great lawyers arrived to argue the case. William Jennings Bryan, the renowned orator, three-time presidential candidate, and self-proclaimed Bible expert, argued for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow, the nation's most celebrated lawyer and an avowed agnostic, defended Scopes. Reporters from around the world descended on the tiny Bible belt town to chronicle the trial. Despite Darrow's best efforts, the jury convicted Scopes. Later, his conviction was overruled on a technicality by an appeals court, disappointing Darrow, who had hoped for an opportunity to take the case to the Supreme Court, where the constitutionality of the Butler Law could be challenged.