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Defining Moments

The Scopes "Monkey Trial"

  • Author/Editor: Anne Janette Johnson
  • Binding: Library binding
  • Trim Size: 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • Page Count: 245
  • Book Level:
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • ISBN: 978-0-7808-0955-0
  • List Price: $60.00
  • Sample Pages
  • Printable Information Sheet
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Science and religion can have an uneasy relationship in the contemporary American classroom, particularly when it comes to the heated evolution vs. creationism debate. The seeds of this issue were sown in a 1925 trial in tiny Dayton, Tennessee, where school teacher John C. Scopes faced charges for teaching Darwinian evolution to his students. The trial raised questions on individual rights, education, and scientific progress, and left a legacy of lasting debate.

Defining Moments: The Scopes “Monkey Trial” presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Scopes trial. It also explores the event’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the era
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Scopes “Monkey Trial” are below:

  • Explain Darwin’s theory of evolution and human history
  • Explain Christian fundamentalist beliefs about creation and human history
  • Describe what led up to the trial: the passage of the Butler Act; the position of the ACLU; the background of John Scopes; George Rappleyea’s efforts to revitalize Dayton; the selection of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan as lead attorneys
  • Compare and contrast the lives and worldviews of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, the lead attorneys in the Scopes trial
  • Review Darrow’s cross-examination of Bryan and other trial highlights
  • Pick one side in the trial and write a closing statement that will convince jurors in the trial to vote your way
  • Research perceptions of the trial and the evolution-creation science debate in the popular media of the day
  • Analyze the issues related to the separation of church and state from the 1920s to today
  • Review the debates over intelligent design in 21st Century America and explain why you believe intelligent design should or should not be taught in the classroom


“Factual data plus the positions of various parties in the Scopes trial provide for a comprehensive understanding while biographies of main players and primary source documents further validate the historical accuracy of this series entry marked by extraordinary organization, archival photographs, and thorough coverage of the topic.”

—VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, Aug ’06; VOYA Nonfiction Honor List, 2006

“[Readers] should not too easily discount this volume because of its intended readership. There may be no other extant discussion of these issues that includes such a compilation of objective recounting and primary sources. … I found this book delightful to read. [Readers] will find the volume interesting and truly informative. These issues remain very important for Christian scientists who may need a reminder of this history.”

—Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Dec ’07

“Bottom line: This and all the other books in the series are rich resources that lay readers and students alike will find useful as starting points for exploring events that have shaped American history.”

—Library Journal, July ’07

“The final section of this volume is 18 primary sources, such as Darwin’s thesis, court-room transcripts, newspaper articles, Scopes’s reminiscences of the trial, and sources concerning ‘Intelligent Design’ (five articles). These final articles offer arguments by proponents and opponents of the controversial, emotional, and current issue and its place in the debate over evolution. An outstanding feature of the volume is its utilization of black-and-white historical photographs. This book is filled with useful information.”

—School Library Journal, Apr ’07

“Johnson provides an absorbing account of this trial, sketching in the background issues that led up to it and noting its legacy. … Pitched at a high-school age audience, this book is an excellent choice for school and public libraries.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2007