American Experience: Monkey Trial (2002)

Genres - History  |   Sub-Genres - Biological Sciences, Law & Crime, Politics & Government  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |  
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In 1925, John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee public schools. His trial, nicknamed the Monkey Trial, became a national event, covered by the major papers and carried live by WGN radio. Part of the attraction was the high profile of the lead lawyers: three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan prosecuted the case while Clarence Darrow, the most famous criminal attorney in the United States at the time, defended Scopes. The fact that they were rivals added to the drama. Oddly, the lawmakers who had passed the anti-evolution bill did not expect it to be enforced. The state's approved biology textbook even taught evolution. Several of Dayton's citizens, however, purposely enacted the law, believing that a trial would aid the town's failing economy. Newspapermen overcrowded the local hotel and even the great satirist H.L. Mencken reported on the proceedings in The Baltimore Sun. Hotdog and lemonade stands crowded the street, while a chimp named John Mendi made appearances each day. American Experience: Monkey Trial includes film footage of the trial and interviews with people who attended it.

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Keywords

biology, controversy, courthouse, evolution, minister, school-system, teacher, trial [courtroom], values