If all you know about the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial”—decided 89 years ago this summer in July 1925—is from the play or movie Inherit the Wind, then you have substituted a fanciful fictional account for the historical reality. (The play was never intended to be historical.)
Here is a convenient summary of the differences.
You can also read Joe Carter’s 9 Things post on the trial, outlined here:
- Inherit the Wind was an anti-anti-communist play.
- The trial was a publicity stunt.
- Scopes wasn’t a martyr—he was a co-conspirator.
- Darrow wasn’t the first choice.
- Bryan wasn’t the lead prosecutor—and he knew the defendant.
- The prosecution’s “Bible expert” believed in the day-age theory.
- Teaching evolution . . . and eugenics.
- The defense wanted to lose the case.
- The ruling was reversed, but no one wanted to retry the case.
The book to read is Edward J. Larson’s 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning history, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion.
The PBS American Experience documentary (below) is helpful and fairly balanced. It has the added bonus of being able to hear from a woman who was a Dayton resident, whose brother had Scopes for a football coach, and who had a front-row seat to the court proceedings and the town and church meetings.