1987 July 20

Scopes Festival Launched in Dayton, Tennessee


The first Scopes Festival commemorating the famous Scopes Monkey trial was held in Dayton, Tennessee, on this day. The Monkey Trial, which began on July 25, 1925, involved the prosecution of biology teacher John T. Scopes for teaching about evolution, in violation of a Tennessee law that prohibited teaching the subject in public schools. The case received national and international attention and launched a controversy over academic freedom and the separation of church and state that continues to rage today. Scopes was convicted, but it was overturned on appeal because the judge made a mistake in imposing the sentence. The state dropped the case and there was never a Supreme Court test of the civil liberties issues at stake.

The Festival has continued almost every year since, and consists of a play dramatizing the trial, and other events.

Inherit the Wind is a play and a movie based on the famous Scopes trial (see April 21, 1955). While many parts of the plot are inventions and are overly melodramatic, much of the cross-examination of the Bryan character (played by Frederick March) by the Darrow character (played by Spencer Tracy is taken directly from the trial transcript and is riveting.

Check the Scopes Festival web site: http://www.scopesfestival.org

Learn more about the famous Scopes case: Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997)

Watch a documentary on the famous case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m0e00NNy5I

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