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On This Day in History, February 8: Bryan in Brooklyn

The Feb. 8, 1900, Brooklyn Daily Eagle carried this advertisement for an upcoming speech by William Jennings Bryan at the Academy of Music, which at the time was still at its original Montague Street location (it burned down in 1903 and then moved to its current site in Fort Greene).

Bryan was a presidential candidate in 1900, as he had been in 1896 and would be again in 1908. A congressman serving Nebraska, Bryan possessed great oratory skill, which made him a well-known national political figure for decades. He advocated progressive causes such as women’s suffrage and labor reform. He also served as secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson.

Bryan is perhaps most often associated with a controversial cause he took up at the end of his life: creationism. A very religious man, Bryan sought to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. This crusade came to a head when he served with the prosecution in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925, in which Tennessee science teacher John Thomas Scopes was put on trial for defying the state’s recently passed legislation banning the teaching of evolution in classrooms. Bryan’s side was victorious in the case, though the trial certainly did damage to his legacy. He died five days after the trial ended, on July 26, 1925.

February 8, 2012 - 9:53am


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