Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

First Advisor

Charles Reagan Wilson

Second Advisor

Willa Johnson

Third Advisor

Zandria Robinson

Relational Format



The academic study of the Scopes Trial has always been approached from a traditional legal interpretation. This project seeks to reframe the conventional arguments surrounding the trial, treating it instead as a significant religious event, one which not only altered the course of Christian Fundamentalism and the Creationist movement, but also perpetuated Southern religious stereotypes through the intense, and largely negative, nationwide publicity it attracted. Prosecutor William Jennings Bryan's crucial role is also redefined, with his denial of a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis during the trial serving as the impetus for the shift toward ultra-conservatism and young-earth Creationism within the movement after 1925. The impact of the Scopes Trial's location in the rural East Tennessee town of Dayton is further analyzed in order to present a local religious and cultural history of its origins, as well as its immediate and long-term effects on Tennessee and the entire region of the South.


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