A Man of Letters

A Man of Letters. Encounter Books, New York, 2007.

A Man of Letters traces the life, career, and commentaries on controversial issues of Thomas Sowell over a period of more than four decades through his letters to and from family, friends, and public figures ranging from Milton Friedman to Clarence Thomas, David Riesman, Arthur Ashe, William Proxmire, Vernon Jordan, Charles Murray, Shelby Steele, and Condoleezza Rice. These letters begin with Sowell as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1960 and conclude with a reflective letter to his fellow economist and longtime friend Walter Williams in 2005.

Much of the social history of the United States during one of its most rapidly changing eras is covered in letters written as that history was unfolding. The beginnings of the civil rights movement, changes and crises on academic campuses in the 1960s, the controversies over race and IQ, and the effects of minimum wage laws are just some of the issues dealt with in these very candid and sometimes pungent letters. Personal development, political controversies, and personal and family crises are also part of the story told in these letters, which go from the humorous to the poignant, sometimes spiced with anger.

Reading A Man of Letters is a way to see the history of the country and the history of one of its controversial scholars at the same time, both told in plain but compelling words.


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