In this propulsive account of the 1925 Scopes Trial, Wineapple documents the antecedents that led to it and how the trial exposed fault lines in America that continue to haunt us. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan emerge as complicated and fascinating characters who embody different versions of American democracy. Keeping the Faith is a terrific story about a pivotal moment in our history and a book that illuminates the conflicts we are seeing in our country today.

- Ken Burns

Keeping the Faith

God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation

In this magnificent book, award-winning author of The Impeachers brings to life the dramatic story of the 1925 Scopes trial, which captivated the nation and exposed profound divisions in America that still resonate today—divisions over the meaning of freedom, religion, education, censorship, and civil liberties in a democracy.

“No subject possesses the minds of men like religious bigotry and hate, and these fires are being lighted today in America.” So said legendary attorney Clarence Darrow as hundreds of people descended on the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, for the trial of a schoolteacher named John T. Scopes, who was charged with breaking the law by teaching evolution to his biology class in a public school.

Brenda Wineapple explores how and why the Scopes trial quickly seemed a circus-like media sensation, drawing massive crowds and worldwide attention. Darrow, a brilliant and controversial lawyer, said in his electrifying defense of Scopes that people should be free to think, worship, and learn according to their own values. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, argued for the prosecution that evolution undermined the fundamental, literal truth of the Bible and created a society without morals, meaning, and hope.

In Keeping the Faith, Wineapple takes us into the early years of the twentieth century—years of racism, intolerance, and world war—to illuminate, through this pivotal legal showdown, a seismic period in American history. At its heart, the Scopes trial dramatized conflicts over many of the fundamental values that define America, and that continue to divide Americans today.

cover image of the book Keeping the Faith

Praise for Keeping the Faith

Brenda Wineapple’s wonderful account of the Scopes trial sheds light not only on the battles of the past but on the struggles of the present.

- Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of And There Was Light

Much of what we think we know about the famous ‘Scopes trial,’ we don't. Our misconceptions need correction; and there is no better corrector than Brenda Wineapple.

- Garry Wills, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lincoln at Gettysburg and What the Qur’an Meant

Brenda Wineapple makes the most of a magnificent cast—Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, H.L. Mencken—to bring to life a drama that captivated the nation a century ago. ‘Democracy was on trial,’ she writes—then as now. A master of historical narrative, Wineapple has given us a bracing and illuminating tale for our own troubled times.

- Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Road to Surrender

This new account of the Scopes trial and the forces that propelled it is so timely as to be almost eerie in its relevance. In Brenda Wineapple’s hands, a century-old event opens a window on where we are as a country today, when the impulse to label certain ideas as too dangerous to be taught is as powerful now as it was when Tennessee made it a crime to teach about evolution.

- Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer-Prize winning legal journalist

Brenda Wineapple brings the past to life with her compelling rendition of the extravaganza that was the Scopes Trial and with her vivid portraits of Darrow and Bryan, its jousting antagonists. But her book speaks chillingly to the present as well as she recounts a battle about science, religion, truth, and freedom of thought that seems much closer than a century ago.

- Drew Gilpin Faust, New York Times bestselling author of Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

Keeping the Faith is a brilliant account of the Scopes trial, as fair minded as it is well-written, as compelling as it is richly detailed—and as relevant to today’s America as it is faithful to the America of a century ago. [The] vivid, nuanced portraits of its two great protagonists, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, are unforgettable.

- Geoffrey C. Ward, author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt