The Public Interest

Patterns of black excellence

Thomas Sowell

Spring 1976

THE history of the advancement of black Americans is almost a laboratory study of human achievement, for it extends back to slavery and was accomplished in the face of the strongest opposition confronting any American racial or ethnic group. Yet this mass advancement is little discussed and seldom researched, except for lionizing some individuals or compiling a record of political milestones. But the story of how millions of people developed from the depths of slavery-acquired work skills, personal discipline, human ideals, and the whole complex of knowledge and values required for achievement in a modern society-is a largely untold story. A glance at the mass of human misery around the world shows that such development is by no means an automatic process. Yet how it was accomplished remains a matter of little concern-in contrast to the unflagging interest in social pathology.

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