Sowell’s rise: Eddie told him to switch schools
Thomas Sowell was born poor and black in North Carolina in 1930. In a Wall Street Journal interview with Tunku Varadarajan, Sowell explains how he made it to the Ivy League and a career as an economist, social theorist and writer.
When he was 9, his mother moved with him to Harlem “to live with relatives who promised a better life for the boy.”
He visited a library for the first time. It was “wondrous.”
A boy named Eddie, a family friend, became his guide.
“I was assigned to a junior high school in a really very bad part of Harlem, and Eddie told me, ‘You don’t have to go there. You can ask to be sent to a different school.’ That’s what he’d done. And then I followed him to Stuyvesant”—a selective high school for smart kids. “He led me. If you take Eddie out of my life, there’s virtually no way I could have followed the same path that I did.”
Sowell is a strong supporter of school choice.
“The most successful schools for educating black kids have been a few charter schools,” he says. “There are literally tens of thousands of kids on waiting lists for charter schools in New York alone.” . . . “The teachers unions complain that charter schools really have skimmed off the cream. Of course that’s nonsense, because people are chosen by lottery. In another sense, there’s a point there, because these are the parents who care about what’s going to happen to their kids. These people are just desperate to get into the charter schools. They don’t want to be raising a bunch of little thugs.”
Sowell loathes the grievance culture. Life is “tremendously better” for educated blacks “who have not succumbed to a new lifestyle — the grievances, and the coarseness represented by rap music,” he believes. “What’s disheartening, though, is that when you study ethnic groups around the world, the ones that are lagging behind are those where their leaders always tell the same story: that it’s other people holding you back, and that therefore you need to stand against those other people and resist their culture. But that culture may be the key to success.”