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Writes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, on his ideological shift from left-wing radicalism:

It was around this time that I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand preached a philosophy of radical individualism that she called Objectivism.

While I didn’t fully accept its tenets, her vision of the world made more sense to me that that of my left-wing friends. “Do your own thing” was their motto, but now I saw that the individualism implicit in that phrase was superficial and strictly limited. They thought, for instance, that it was going too far for a black man to do his thing by breaking with radical politics, which was what I now longed to do.

I never went along with the militant separatism of the Black Muslims, but I admired their determination to “do for self, brother,” as well as their discipline and dignity. That was Daddy’s way. He knew that to be truly free and participate fully in American life, poor blacks had to have the tools to do for themselves. This was the direction in which my political thinking was moving as my time at Holy Cross drew to an end.

The question was how much courage I could muster up to express my individuality. What I wanted was for everyone — the government, the racists, the activists, the students, even Daddy — to leave me alone so that I could finally start thinking for myself.

Hat Tip: Althouse

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