Thomas Sowell. Courtesy of tsowell.com.
Thomas Sowell was a core participant in the 1980 Black Alternatives Conference in San Francisco, considered
the genesis of the modern black conservative movement. The event, commonly known as the Fairmont Conference (it was held at the
Fairmont Hotel), was sponsored by the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a conservative think tank founded in 1972 by Edwin
Meese III and Caspar Weinberger, both of whom would gain prominent cabinet appointments in the Reagan administration. The conference
brought together approximately one hundred policymakers and academics interested in countering what they believed to be the unfilled
promises of previous administrations. Chief among the participants' beliefs—and in great contrast to the views of
traditional civil rights organizations—was the position that institutional racism had ceased being the primary obstacle to
African American social and economic advancement. In a speech at the event, Sowell stated that "there is growing factual evidence
of counterproductive results from noble intentions," referring to programs such as affirmative action and federal welfare
payments. A prominent public intellectual, Sowell earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago under the mentorship
of renowned economic theorist Milton Friedman, and has been a Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution since
1980. Arguably the most influential black conservative scholar of the past four decades, he has been a prolific commentator,
authoring over two dozen books.