Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essentially to their time and country have been waged by many good, as well as by evil, men. …Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.
Justice Robert Jackson, writing for the U.S. Supreme Court –West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)
The Court found that the underlying issue was not any claimed conflict between liberty of conscience and the state’s ability to survive in time of crisis. The issue was not weak versus strong government, but, rather, seeing the strength of America in “individual freedom of mind” rather than in “officially disciplined uniformity for which history indicates a disappointing and disastrous end.” Enforced conformity, far from teaching the value of liberty, would “strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.”
Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate –FIRE’s Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus
As a whole, if children got book learnin enough they’d jump off of this country; they don’t want to plow, don’t want no part of no sort of field work. That’s the way it runs here. The biggest majority runs off to some place where they can get a public job. … And I never did forget none of his treatments toward me. You forever remember the wrongs done to you as long as you live. But it’s just like forgivin if you just go on in this world and don’t worry about it. … So my daddy married Maggie Reed and him and her was the father and mother of thirteen children - my old daddy was a rooster, he was a humdinger. … My grandmother and other people that I knowed grew up in slavery time, they wasn’t satisfied with their feredom. They felt like motherless children - they wasn’t satisfied but they had to live under the impression that they were. Had to act in a way just as though everything was all right. But they would open up every once in a while and talk about slavery time - they didn’t know nothin about no freedom then, didn’t know what it was but they wanted it. And when they got it they knew that what they got wasn’t what they wanted, it wasn’t freedom, really. Had to do whatever the white man directed em to do, couldn’t voice their heart’s desire. That was the way of life that I was born and raised into. … Of course, years ago I heard that President Lincoln freed the colored people; but it didn’t amount to a hill of beans. … He was imprisoned in slavery for fifteen years - slavery were equal or worser than prison, but both of em bad and the poor colored man knows more about them two subjects than anybody. … And when I got to be a little old boy, when I got big enough to catch on to what people said, and even to the words of the old people, and the Bible, it was instilled in me many a time: the bottom rail will come to the top someday. I taken that to mean a change in the later years, durin of my lifetime maybe. I believe, if that day come, the poor generation on earth will banish away their toils and snares. But won’t nobody do it for them but themselves. … I was big enough and old enough to abominate what I seed. … He wasn’t a slave but he lived like one. Because he had to take what the white people gived to get along. That much of slavery ways was still hangin on. According to slave days you wasn’t allowed the privilege to seek knowledge without the white man, master man, allowin you. And that was the rule durin of my daddy’s lifetime and through my life, to be sure. … They claimed they had a note against him and they took all he had. In those days, it was out of the knowledge of the colored man to understand that if you gived a man a note on everything you had, exactly how you was subject to the laws. Because the colored man wasn’t educated in the laws for his use; they was a great, dark secret to him.
Nate Shaw –Theodore Rosengarten (ed), All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw