The Scopes Trial: A Photographic History

Article excerpt

Caudill, Edward and Edward J. Larson. The Scopes Trial: A Photographic History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000. 112 pp. $18.95.

For twelve hot days in the summer of 1925, the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, was the scene of the Scopes trial, one of the most famous and controversial trials of the twentieth century. Young teacher John Scopes was found guilty of violating a Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools. The conviction was later overturned on a technicality, but the trial has come to symbolize America's ongoing debate between science and religion.

Edward Caudill of the University of Tennessee and Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia revisit the Scopes trial on its seventy-fifth anniversary and weave a compelling narrative of the events, ideologies, and personalities that made it a "trial of the century." And Jesse Fox Mayshark, a Tennessee newspaper editor, examines the legacy of the Scopes trial in modern-day Tennessee politics, religion, and education. Caudill's introduction provides well-documented historical context for the trial and vivid descriptions of the key players in the courtroom: brilliant trial lawyer and self-proclaimed agnostic Clarence Darrow and three-time presidential candidate and fundamentalist Christian William Jennings Bryan. Caudill demonstrates a keen grasp of the complexities of the case and of the larger social conflicts between Darwinism and religion, yet he makes the story intelligible and engaging. His analysis is informed by his experience as a journalism professor and by being the author of Darwinian Myths: The Legends and Misuses of a Theory.

Sandwiched between Caudill's introduction and Mayshark's afterword is the "Photographic History," a collection of thirty-seven photographs with text supplied by Larson. …