God, Darwin and Loyalty in America: The University of Tennessee and the Great Professor Trial of 1923


  • Kimberly Marinucci New York University


University of Tennessee, Faculty, History, Kimerbly Marinucci, HIC


This article examines an academic freedom controversy at the University of Tennessee that led to the dismissals of seven faculty members. In the 1920s, evolution teaching in public education pitted the religious fundamentalists against advocates of science and intellectual freedom. The battle dramatized the meaning of these institutions as havens of democracy. In the 1920s, fears of Darwinism became intertwined with perceptions of citizenship and definitions of national loyalty. Events at this public university also highlight the politics of educational leadership. Finally, they foreshadow the dramatic courtroom showdown in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. The Scopes trial constitutes a defining historical moment of the twentieth century and symbolizes the resistance to cultural change. Such a treatment advances the current literature by highlighting the greater vulnerability of academic freedom at state institutions determined by economic dependence. As well, it incorporates developments at other institutions and the role of national higher education associations. Additional sources from the AAUP and the ACLU place Tennessee in the broader context of the cause of civil liberties.

Author Biography

Kimberly Marinucci, New York University

Kimberly Marinucci (KNUCCI@aol.com) recently received her Ph.D. from the Department of History at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is adjunct assistant professor of history in liberal arts at New York University. Her paper represents one chapter from her dissertation, "Probing the Nation: Americanism, Public Universities, and the Politics of Academic Freedom, 1918-1946."