Banned Book Week will be celebrated from September 21 to September 27, so all of this month’s quotes have to do with the freedom to read whatever we please without censorship.
“All of us can think of a book . . . that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf – that work I abhor – then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then we have no books left on the shelf for any of us.” – Katherine Patterson
“A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.” – Laurence Peter, professor of education, 1977
“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.” – Winston S. Churchill
“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” – Oscar Wilde
“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” – George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Mrs. Warren’s Profession
“In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom.” – Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education
“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.” – John F. Kennedy
“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘best’ should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. . . As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.” – Stephen King
_ _ _
Let’s close with two humorous quotes by authors who have been the victims of book banning.
“Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink. I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County [Virginia] School Board in any first grade of its choice.” – Harper Lee (1966)
“I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote ‘Tom Sawyer’ & ‘Huck Finn’ for adults exclusively, & it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.” – Mark Twain to a librarian in the Brooklyn Public Library (1905)