The Protestant work ethic (PWE), the belief that hard work leads to success, is a quintessentially American belief. The present research addresses a critical gap in psychological research on PWE: can a single, large-scale sociopolitical event (government's response to Hurricane Katrina) produce changes in PWE? We review evidence showing that the salience of Katrina led to a reduction in African Americans' (not European Americans') endorsement of PWE and that this result appears explained by African Americans' greater belief in the government's inadequate response to Katrina victims, who were predominately African American. The implications of differential endorsement of PWE for future expectations of societal treatment, motivation to pursue important goals, and willingness to endorse structural corrections of inequality are discussed.