Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sequoyah and His Talking Symbols

Vonore, Tennessee. The wind whipped around me like bitterness.

"These grounds are not yours," the whispering past said.

"I come with respect," I said replied silently and for a few moments, there was no wind, no coldness. This was familiar territory and my footsteps, leaving nothing behind on the pavement of the parking lot, were perhaps remembered. So many dark and cold nights, I had walked here, learning basic Cherokee. It does not get much more romantic than this - learning a language where its academic record began. This is the site where Sequoyah, who created the Cherokee Syllabary, a method for recording and communicating the language in a written form was born.

    • Latitude: 35.585192,
    • Longitude: -84.220438
    • 576 Highway 360 - Vonore, TN 37885
    • The museum is located very near the site of Tuskeegee, the village where Sequoyah was born.
    • Sequoyah was born in 1776.
    • He created the Cherokee Syllabary in 1821.
    • The syllabary is composed of 85 symbols.
    • It took him 12 years to create it.
    • Museum and grounds.
    • Museum

The Monkey Trial

Dayton, Tennessee. I have always enjoyed a good spin, and when I find something incredibly famous that turns out to be about spin, well, so much the better. The Scopes Trial. Spin, spin, spin and more spin.

There were a couple of historic places that caught hold of me when I moved to Tennessee. I fell in total love with the Secret City, but I also harbored a quiet crush on the Scopes Trial. It amazed me that I had moved so close to a place where evolution and the bible collided. However, I was misguided. Here I thought the whole Scopes Trial was all about two impassioned sides - one holding fast to religious doctrine, the other side, science barging in with good old evolution. Quite a fight to sink one's teeth into.

But no. It was not so simple, or rather it was even more diluted than my beliefs. Rather, the trial was a publicity stunt. Can you imagine? Who knew? The Scopes Trial was the brainchild of George Rappalyea, the manager of a local coal company in Dayton, TN. To encourage the economy of the town, he instigated the whole deal. The American Civil Liberties Union had publicized they would help defend anyone who rose up against the Butler Act of Tennessee (a law that mandated that teachers would give the biblical interpretation of the the rise of man as opposed to Darwinian evolution). Rarralyea saw an opportunity and realized that if he could find a teacher willing to include evolution and the ascent from primates to man in the science curriculum, well, the trial that would happen would be huge. It would bring attention to the declining town. (1)

And so John Scopes, a football coach, took his seat in history and while substitute teaching for a science teacher at Rhea County High School, had his students read about evolution in Civic Biology. Cue the circus.

The court case was huge, incredibly famous and yes, it did all that Rappalyea had hoped. Spin, spin, spin.

    • Latitude: 35.493167
    • Longitude: -85.012444
    • 1475 Market Street - Dayton, TN 37321
    • The Scopes Trail happened in July 1925.
    • William Jennings Bryan prosecuted the case.
    • Clarence Darrow defended the case.
    • Scopes was found guilty.
    • The court room was restored in 1979.
    • Rhea County Courthouse
    • Basement is a museum.
    • The original court room is on the second floor.
    • Court House
    • Museum