• Podcast
  • Apr 11 2022

'Behind the Blue': Erik Reece on Kentucky Connections to the Scopes Trial, Parallels to Today

Few moments change the course of history.

The Scopes Trial – where teaching evolution in schools became a national debate – is one of those moments. And it has a very distinct and profound connection to the University of Kentucky.

John Scopes, the young school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee. who was being prosecuted for teaching evolution in the schools, was a graduate of the University of Kentucky. He had been deeply influenced by teachers at UK and the university’s third president, from 1917 to 1940, Franklin LeRond McVey.

Prior to the Scopes Trial, McVey was one of the leaders of an effort in Kentucky to block legislation that proposed to prohibit the teaching of evolution in the schools. McVey’s powerful rhetoric and political skills prevailed as the legislation was narrowly defeated. The movement then moved to Tennessee, setting the stage for one of the most important trials and debates of 20th Century America.

Erik Reece is a professor of English at the University of Kentucky and the author of several books of non-fiction, along with poetry and magazine articles in leading national publications.

He is working on a book-length treatment and examination of the Scopes Trial, its Kentucky connections and its meaning for us today.

On this episode of "Behind the Blue," Reece discusses this project, the writing process, his influences, the importance of Kentucky in American letters and writing and how teaching informs his work. "Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of Behind the Blue can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.