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This study examines the determinants of personal self-esteem, racial self-esteem, and personal efficacy in a 1980 national sample of black Americans. The findings show that the three dimensions are interrelated each is anchored in interpersonal relations with family and friend. However, the three dimensions are produced by fundamentally different processes. Personal self-esteem is most strongly influenced by microsocial relations with family, friends, and community, while personal efficacy is generated through experiences in social statuses embedded in macrosocial systems of social inequality. We conclude that black self-esteem is insulated from systems of racial inequality, while personal efficacy is not, and suggest that this explains why black Americans have relatively high self-esteem but low personal efficacy. The belief that racial discrimination, rather than individual failure, accounts for low achievement among blacks is irrelevant to personal self-esteem and personal efficacy. In contrast, racial self-esteem is produced by a combination of education, interracial contact, and ideological processes.