With Walter, that path was not a straight line but had many zigs and zags, and there were times when he was a disappointment to his mother. But, in the end, he vindicated all the efforts and hopes that she had invested in him.
There were also teachers, and then professors, who played a role in developing his mind-- especially hard-nosed teachers in Philadelphia who chewed him out when he messed up and UCLA professors who bluntly told him when his work wasn't good enough.
None of them was the kind of warm, chummy educators that so many hold up as an ideal. After Walter Williams earned his Ph.D. in economics and went on to become a professor himself, he was scathing in his criticism of fuzzy-minded faculty members who think they are doing students a favor by going easy on them or giving them higher grades than they deserve.
As he began to write about racial issues, Walter was able to draw not only on his research as an economist, but also on his personal experiences in the Philadelphia ghetto, in the Jim Crow South and in South Africa, where he lived for some months during the era of Apartheid.
Few others had so much to draw on, and many of them failed to understand that Walter Williams saw a lot deeper than they did. As a result, his conclusions made him a controversial figure.
When I finished reading "Up from the Projects," I wished it had been a longer book. But it got the job done-- and its insights are much needed today.