The “Vital Few” – A Series on Black Achievement Across The American Spectrum: Sports, Music, Medicine, Education, Politics…Part 1

I read Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, after college when I returned to my normal reading life. For years, I worried that I was neither smart nor important enough to disappear from the world as the entrepreneurs and industrialists in the novel leave to make a plan to thwart socialism. Canadian economist Reuven Brenner refers to these rare individuals as the “vital few.” These thoughts have led me to write this series about black achievement across the wide spectrum of American life. The series features but a few of the black men and women who have proven it is possible to live to the other side of the past and live among the “vital few.” The series is offered as an inspiration to all who aspire to live the possibilities of their lives.

When hearing the ongoing rhetoric of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and some of our City Council Members, and cohorts who preach the victimization of blacks, you never hear about the lives mentioned in this series. Such achievements do not support their narrative. Those who cry victimization have made a handsome living to the detriment of their communities. Drive through Wards 1-4 and see for yourself what years of this world view have wrought. This shameless position affects black youth who hear little about the possibilities of their lives. I have spent hours dragging photos and taking notes about black people who have taken responsibility for their lives against all odds and helped change the world. Their photos need to be pinned on bedroom walls as a sign of what is possible. (To think that 63 years after the publication of Atlas we are facing an election about the very thing Rand wrote: we must save Capitalism!)

I think we have come to a place in black America, sadly from my point of view, where we have once again begun to rely on our history of victimization as our primary source of power to wield within society.  -Shelby Steele

Misty Danielle Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 75-year history. Since then, whenever Ms. Copeland has danced leading roles with Ballet Theater, her performances have become events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on at the Metropolitan Opera House, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. When she starred in “Swan Lake” with Ballet Theater she becomes the first African-American to do so with the company at the Met.

Because She Did, I Can: A Conversation with My Young Black Ballerina

“Those were the words Lela spoke to me as we listened to the interview of Misty Copeland, talking about being the 1st African-American Prima Ballerina at the American Ballet Theater.”

I wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It’s just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to! Misty Copeland

8 thoughts on “The “Vital Few” – A Series on Black Achievement Across The American Spectrum: Sports, Music, Medicine, Education, Politics…Part 1

  1. Ayn Rand might not be the best person to quote here… She was an atheist and in her own words said all of her principles arose from the first one – that there is no God. A lot of her views are not compatible with Christian charity. She therefore probably shares more in common with actual Marxists… Just a thought!


    1. Thank you for adding this information about Ayn Rand to this piece. It was the novel rather than her personal story that prompted me to use the disappearance of the industrialists and entrepreneurs. Further research into that occurrence led me to the phrase, the “Vital Few.” The reference helped me frame my purpose in seeking out some who grew up prior to Civil Rights Judge. I think of Clarence Thomas and what he endured to become a Supreme Court Judge. I can say at an early age when I read Atlas, it has taken all these years to understand the socialism she wrote about and the threat it has become now. Hope this explains the use of Ayn Rands work.


  2. “Be All You Can Be.”
    These words graced the blackboard in our high school French and English Literature teacher’s room. Hundreds of students saw these words day after day for four years. Imagine 5 words that touched so many lives and made a difference. In the end it is what it all boils down to.


  3. We need to know the success of young black boys and girls in their different fields of study.I wish the media would do a better job of informing the public of their accomplishments. Not just black but all races .


  4. Stephen This was an inspirational story with lovely photos as you intended. However, sometimes there are locals who can be inspiring. There are several inductees in the Twin County Hall of Fame who chose not to be victims, but leaders and examples for everyone, not just to people of color. Please consider telling some of their stories- Helen Gay, Jesse Jones, Richard Joyner, Buck Leonard, Dred Wimberly, Dr. Milton Quigless, and the list goes on


    1. I appreciate this reminder of our local black success stories. Consider it done. I will get working on the research. If left out the series would have missed the important point I hope to make. This is an essential shift from blame to a recognition of how black lives take responsibility, work hard, and leave lasting contributions for all our lives. Thank you for this. A hug!


  5. Such a wonderful article – especially LOVE the photos of the gorgeous young dancers in training. These are the types of lives and stories that we need in local and national media. Thank you, Stepheney!


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