July 21 in freethought history…

robertingersollJuly 21, 1899 – American politician, attorney and freethought lecturer Robert Green Ingersoll dies in Dobbs Ferry, New York, aged 65. Dubbed “the Great Agnostic,” Ingersoll was one of the most famous Americans of the 19th century. He lectured widely in favor of women’s rights and civil rights, and against organized religion. (Did I mention he was a REPUBLICAN?) Despite his influence within the Republican party, his outspoken unbelief prevented him from gaining elected office (he served as the first Attorney General of Illinois, but it was an appointed position). He knew many of the luminaries of the day, once hosting Frederick Douglass in his home when the civil rights activist could not find lodging elsewhere, and delivering the eulogy at Walt Whitman’s funeral. His lectures include “The Gods,” “Some Mistakes of Moses” and “Why I Am an Agnostic.”

July 21, 1925 – Schoolteacher John Thomas Scopes is convicted in Dayton, Tennessee of teaching evolution in a public school, in violation of state law. Scopes was convicted and fined $100. He appealed, and while the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the conviction, they dismissed the fine on a technicality.

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