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The Story Behind the
Scopes "Monkey" Trial
Many Americans have heard about the Scopes "Monkey" trial. A classic movie, Inherit the Wind, was even made in 1960 based on the famous trial. The movie starred Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.
The synopsis of the movie that is generally known goes as follows: A high school Biology teacher, John Scopes, in Dayton, Tennessee, was brought to trial for teaching the Darwin theory of evolution. Being a highly religious town, charges were brought upon the teacher since the theory of evolution went against the version in the Bible. At the end of the trial, the Biology teacher was found guilty.
Now the real story behind this famous trial. After Tennessee became the third state to pass a law forbiding the teaching of evolution, the ACLU placed newspaper ads looking for a test case with which to challenge the law. The town leaders of Dayton saw this as an opportunity to gain publicity for the town, and, hopefully bring in the tourists. They approached John Scopes, a part-time substitute teacher to tell them their plan. He agreed to go along with the plan and go to trial. The defendant's attorney, Clarence Darrow, didn't even try to get his client acquitted. In fact, he wanted Scopes to be found guilty so he could file appeals and continue the publicity. Indeed, Scope was found guilty. However, the judge in the case let Scopes off on a technicality.
The publicity worked very well. Tourists flocked to Dayton while the trial was going on hoping to get a seat inside the courtroom. Hundreds could not get in so they stood around the courthouse waiting for updates. Even after the trial ended, flocks of tourists continued to visit Dayton to see where the famous trial took place. As the saying goes, this trial put Dayton, Tennessee "on the map." Now, even 80 years later, the trial is still known to literally millions of people.