July 1 to July 15, 2020
In a swipe against Jim Crow, the Supreme Court ruled in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in American schools was illegal.
Eight years later, President Lyndon Johnson ratified the Civil Rights Act—landmark legislation that was powered—in part–by Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of passionate, passive, and peaceful resistance.
For more information about those turbulent times, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Juan Williams’s Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.
The fourth of July is not about barbecues, beaches, or even festive fireworks. It is intended to commemorate the 1776 founding of America, and ratification of the Declaration of Independence.
In the beginning, Colonial Americans intended to assert their rights as British citizens, but the Redcoats misread their message, perceived defiance, tightened their control over the colonists, and backed into the fiery freedom fighters. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, published in January of 1776, pushed perspective onto the people, and a mass of momentum for the revolution.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Marilyn Boyer’s For You They Signed.
Tennessee made it a crime 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.”
John Thomas Scopes, a local high school science teacher, was accused of violating the law, and in July 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial began.
The inquiry lasted eleven days; thousands of spectators gathered around the Dayton, TN courthouse. The curious were mesmerized by the issue under consideration—and– the reason why William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow’s–two of the most notable orators and legal experts of the times– were siding with the defense.
When the overflow became unmanageable, Judge John Raulston moved the proceedings to the front lawn of the court.
On July 21, the jury delivered a “guilty” verdict in less than nine minutes, but two years later, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Tennessee; in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court, forever resolved the issue when it declared that the original verdict violated the Constitution.
For more information about the Scopes Trial, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Ronald Kidd’s Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.