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On this day in 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial ended with John Thomas Scopes’ conviction on charges of teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee state law. It was the original Trial of the Century & the case was played up on both sides for maximum publicity value. According to the law of the land, it was illegal to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals" since the state legislature had passed it’s anti-evolution legislation in March 1925. Scopes and his cohort, a local business owner named George Rappalyea, plotted to intentionally violate the law and enlisted themselves in the efforts of the ACLU to bring it’s constitutionality to question in a court. The well known super-attorney Clarence Darrow was added to their defense team after charges were successfully brought against Scopes. The defense’s intention was to argue that anti-evolution regulations were in violation of the First Amendment’s protections. The prosecution’s star player was a popular Christian fundamentalist and former cabinet member under President Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, who had been at the forefront of the creationist movement that designed the Tennessee law Scopes’ had violated. The judge was unsympathetic to the ACLU’s constitutional arguments & required every court session to begin with a prayer despite objections. During the trial, the ever-clever Darrow called Bryan as his sole witness and proceeded to make a mockery of the man in front of hordes of spectators. Darrow humiliated Bryan by coercing him to discredit his own literal interpretation of the Bible and admit that such a view was foolish. In his closing statement, Darrow asked the jury to return with a guilty verdict, so that the case maybe continued in an appeals court and after an eight minute deliberation they did just that. Scopes was found guilty on July 21, 1925 and fined $100, but the intense media coverage of the trial had clearly shifted public opinion against the creationist ideology of the prosecution, so you can say that he lost the battle & won the war. His verdict would be overturned two years later on a technicality, but the issue of church & state bumping heads in the classroom would go unresolved until a similar law in Arkansas was shot down by the Supreme Court in 1968. Some would say the conflict has yet to be resolved (and I’ll bet they’re the same assholes that say boring shit like “lost the battle, won the war”). The movement to include Creationism in classroom instruction is alive, but it seems to me that it might be on it’s last legs here in the U.S. In February 2007, the Kansas Board of Education voted to remove it’s Intelligent Design teachings from it’s state-wide science curriculum, Pennsylvania officially terminated it’s Intelligent Design curricula in 2005, and earlier this year Florida changed it’s educational standards to include, for the first time, mandatory instruction in evolution & related concepts. On the other hand, since 1999, Kentucky has banned the term “evolution” from it’s textbooks (preferring “change over time” instead), Virginia reaffirmed it’s commitment to include creationist instruction in science courses as of 2007, and the state of Ohio has permitted (but not  required) Intelligent Design instruction since 2002. I guess some places are a lot more “liberal” about the use of fantastical mythology masquerading as fact in scholastic instruction. Personally, I hate tax dollars to be wasted on Christian propaganda, while our students are receiving sub-standard educations that should shame any self-respecting Western nation. If you don’t believe the shit your kid learns at school, do a little parenting & talk to them yourself. You’d be surprised how much pull parents actually have when it comes to the ideological beliefs of their offspring. After all, it’s Moms and Dads that propagate all that other mythology that American childhood is littered with; The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Chupacabra…


Another important historical event that happened on July 21st and is worth mentioning here is an incident during The Great Railroad Strike of 1877. A bloody battle between striking railway workers and state militia members broke out in Pittsburgh on July 21, 1877. The United States of 1877 was a divided nation. It’s latest Presidential election had left many voters feeling disenfranchised, since Samuel J. Tilden had clearly won the popular vote but the election went to Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the majority of electoral votes. The Presidential Election of 1876 had been the most contentious election in American history (before the current Administration pulled a couple fast ones, that is) and allegations of underhanded backdoor dealings only fanned the flames of public outrage at the election’s results. Thomas Alexander Scott, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, allegedly brokered a deal that awarded disputed electoral votes to Hayes, winning him the election, in exchange for a federal bailout of failing investments in the Texas and Pacific railroads. As a result, the public distrusted the presidential administration, as well as the capitalist investors like Scott that got Hayes into office. The economic situation in the States was none to good at the time either & the railroad industry was no exception to the rule. Workers had suffered a 10% decrease in wages in only four years, so when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) attempted to cut wages for the second time in that year, workers refused to put up with the bullshit any longer. They had little faith in the legislative or judicial avenues available to settle disputes & took to the streets in protest, stopping rail deliveries across the east coast. Initially the unrest started in Martinsburg, West Virginia on July 14th, but it quickly spread to Cumberland, Maryland, where street riots broke out. The President sent federal troops and marines into Baltimore to quash the labor uprising on July 21st. On the same day, the railroad workers striking in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania experienced the worst violence of the strike. When local law enforcement refused to fire on the striking workers, militiamen attacked them with bayonets and rifle rounds, killing twenty and wounding another twenty-nine protesters. Infuriated strikers chased the militiamen into a railroad building, where they lit the structure on fire and started a blaze that would eventually destroy 39 other buildings, 104 locomotives, and 1245 freight and passenger cars. The next morning, the cornered militiamen shot their way out of the burning railway building, killing another twenty strikers on their way out of Pittsburgh. The Great Railroad Strike would spread to Chicago, Saint Louis, and the American west before it was halted with force 45 days later by President Hayes’ federal troops traveling city to city, smashing strike momentum as they went. The railroad workers eventually agreed to a labor contract that did little to improve their situation, but The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 (the first large scale rail strike) taught union organizers and future labor activists lessons that helped improve their tactics.

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