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ASSIGNMENT: The Scopes trial is most commonly remembered as a dramatic clash between those who believed in evolution and those who believed that God created the world in seven days. However, the controversy surrounding the Scopes trial was, in fact, more complicated. How was the controversy surrounding the Scopes trial more complicated than a simple debate between evolutionists and creationists?



Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender was one of the main African American newspapers in the country. In the decade before the Scopes trial, the newspaper played a major role in convincing blacks to leave the South and move North. The excerpt below is from an editorial about the Scopes trial.

In Tennessee a schoolteacher is being tried for teaching evolution to his pupils. If convicted, a prison term awaits him; he will be branded as an ordinary felon and thrown into a cell with robbers, gunmen, thugs, rapists and murderers. . . .

That is the South’s way. Anything which conflicts with the South’s idea of her own importance, anything which tends to break down her doctrine of white superiority, she fights. If truths are introduced and these truths do not conform to what southern grandfathers believed, then it must be suppressed.

The Tennessee legislators who passed the law . . . probably never read the text themselves and all they know about the subject is that the entire human race is supposed to have started from a common origin. Therein lies their difficulty. Admit that premise and they will have to admit that there is no fundamental difference between themselves and the race they pretend to despise. Such admission would, of course, play havoc with the existing standards of living in the South.

Excerpt from Chicago Defender editorial, “If Monkeys Could Speak.” May 23, 1925.

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