Saturday, September 12, 2020


        Along with a concern for my physical safety, there was another, longer-range concern in my family that I heard, especially from Lacy, Birdie, and Ruth. They had never had the opportunities that I would now [1939] have in New York, including the opportunity for a good education, and they wanted me to make the most of those opportunities. All this was a little vague to me at first, but it was a theme I would hear again and again over the years. Even before I arrived in New York, Birdie and Lacy picked out a boy they wanted me to meet—a slightly older, more genteel, and more knowledgeable boy name Eddie Mapp. They obviously wanted me to become more like him and to choose such company, rather than the “roughnecks” Lacy warned me against.

        These ambitions of theirs were only partly fulfilled. I met Eddie Mapp and we saw each other from time to time, but we didn’t have enough in common to become close buddies. He played classical music on the piano, for example, which put him in another world, as far as I was concerned. However, he also introduced me to Chinese checkers and to comic books, and showed me a store where you could trade comic books after you read them. Most important of all, he took me one day to a kind of place where I had never been before and knew nothing about—a public library. Impressed but puzzled as to why we were in a building with so many books, when I had no money to buy books, I found it difficult to understand at first, as Eddie explained to me how a public library worked. Unknown to me at the time, it was a turning point in my life, for I then developed the habit of reading books.

Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey
New York: The Free Press, 2000, p. 17

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