Scared Red & A Trial in Rocky Top!

The Red Scare and Scopes Trial

The war s over....but trouble at home

World War I was over, but the hysteria lingered. The Eastern front had not gone well for Russia. The pressures of their losing effort forced the Russian czar to abdicate. The new government had not fared much better. Finally in November 1917, LENIN led a successful revolution of the Bolshevik workers. The ideas of Karl Marx had been known since 1848, but nowhere in the world until now had a successful communist revolution occurred. Once the war against Germany was over, the Western powers focused their energies at restoring CZAR NICHOLAS. Even the United States sent troops to Russia hoping the WHITE RUSSIANS could oust the communist REDS. All this effort was in vain. The Bolsheviks murdered the entire royal family and slowly secured control of the entire nation.

The Communist Party Forms

Back in the United States, veterans were returning home. Workers who avoided striking during the war were now demanding wage increases to keep pace with spiraling inflation. Over 3,300 postwar strikes swept the land. A small group of radicals formed the COMMUNIST LABOR PARTY in 1919. Progressive and conservative Americans believed that labor activism was a menace to American society and must be squelched. The hatchet-man against American radicals was President Wilson's Attorney General, A. MITCHELL PALMER. Palmer was determined that no Bolshevik Revolution would happen in the United States.

From 1919 to 1920, Palmer conducted a series of raids on individuals he believed were dangerous to American security. He deported 249 RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS without just cause. The so-called "SOVIET ARK" was sent back to Mother Russia. With Palmer's sponsorship, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover.

Stop The Presses!

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case

On April 15, 1921, two employees of a shoe warehouse in South Braintree, Massachusetts, were murdered during a robbery. The police investigating the crime arrested two Italian immigrants named NICOLA SACCO AND BARTOLOMEO VANZETTI. Sacco and Vanzetti maintained their innocence, but they already had a strike against them: they were ANARCHISTS and socialists. Just a little over two weeks after their arrest, they were found guilty.

Many people, particularly fellow socialists, protested the verdict, saying the two men were convicted more on political and ethnic prejudice than on any real evidence. Indeed, four years later, another man said he had committed the crime with a local gang. Despite appeals, Sacco and Vanzetti were never granted a retrial. When they were sentenced to death on April 9, 1927, protests erupted around the country. But to no avail — the men were executed on Aug. 23, 1927. They claimed they were innocent until the moment of their deaths. Scholars still debate the guilt and innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti, but there is little question that the trial was biased against them.

Monkey on Trail?

In 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed the BUTLER LAW, which forbade the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in any public school or university. Other Southern states followed suit. The AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION led the charge of evolution's supporters. It offered to fund the legal defense of any Tennessee teacher willing to fight the law in court. Another showdown between modernity and tradition was unfolding. The man who accepted the challenge was JOHN T. SCOPES, a science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee. In the spring of 1925, he walked into his classroom and read, from Dayton's Tennessee-approved textbook HUNTER'S CIVIC BIOLOGY, part of a chapter on the evolution of humankind and Darwin's theory of natural selection. His arrest soon followed, and a trial date was set.

Representing Scopes was the famed trial lawyer CLARENCE DARROW. Slick and sophisticated, Darrow epitomized the urban society in which he lived. The prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate and former secretary of state. The "Great Commoner" was the perfect representative of the rural values he dedicated his life to defend.

The trial turned into a media circus.

Scopes himself played a rather small role in the case: the trial was reduced to a verbal contest between Darrow and Bryan. When Judge John Raulston refused to admit expert testimony on the validity of evolutionary theory, Darrow lost his best defense. The jury sided with the law. Clearly, Scopes was in violation of Tennessee statute by teaching that humans descended from monkeys. He was fined $100 and released. But the battle that played out before the nation proved a victory for supporters of evolutionary theory. A later court dismissed the fine imposed on Scopes, though in the short term, the anti evolution law was upheld.