Thomas Sowell has retired at the young age of 84 years. I have learned so much from his writings. His life is a remarkable example of Rugged Individualism.

Dr. Sowell tells a story from his youth that can be a lesson to every parent – and bring a tear to every eye (footnote). It is important to know that Thomas Sowell grew up black and poor in Harlem. When he was promoted to the seventh grade, he was surprised that it caused a commotion in his family. Then he was told: “You have now gone further than any of us.” He didn’t stop in the seventh grade. He went on to graduate from Harvard Law School and, subsequently, earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago.

His mother was a domestic. In his youth she realized that Thomas was headed in the wrong direction – sadly, a direction many young African Americans are taking today also. She insisted that he read a book every month and write a report on the book which she would review. She would then hand back the reports with marks all over them.

Sowell eventually realized that she could not read.

Thank you for your great body of work, Professor Sowell. My readers are well advised to study his work.

Roy Filly


I tried to find the reference to this story. I can no longer recall in which of his many writings he shared this story (he has written 30 books and countless articles). I can only say that when I read it, it had a profound effect on me.

Also, I cannot say to which “mother” Sowell referred in the story. Sowell was born into an African-American family in North Carolina. His father died shortly before he was born, and his mother already had four children. A great-aunt and her two grown daughters adopted Sowell and raised him in Harlem.


About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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