Chicago Defender (Full Text)

Head Note: 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 scholteacher 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. he will wear a striped suit, learn the lock-step and spend a few years reducing rocks to a more serviceable size.

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 doctine 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 making it a crime to teach Darwinism in that state probably have 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 they pretend 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.

And so, encouraged by America's champion long distance presidential "white hope," William Jennings Bryan, Tennessee blazes the trail making ignorance compulsory. Florida, Mr. Bryan's adopted home, follows by a close margin.

There never was a surer "back to the monkey" sign than in Tennessee's present trend. It is too bad the monkeys cannot speak and show the South just how ridiculous she is becoming in her efforts to convince the world that she is "superior."

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