Harvard awarded him a master’s degree but would not support him in getting his doctorate (he earned it at the University of Vienna); potential employers snubbed him. (“We didn’t know you were a Negro,” the DuPont Company told him after inviting him for an interview.)
After doors slammed and opportunities vanished, Mr. Julian landed a job at Howard University, only to become enmeshed in a sex scandal that ended his employment there: He and his future wife were accused of having an affair while she was still married to one of his colleagues.
He spent years teaching at DePauw, in Greencastle, Ind., where a building is now named in his honor, but was denied a faculty position. After almost two decades at the Glidden company, where his research made possible a fire-retardant foam widely used in World War II and the mass production of synthetic progesterone, the company told him to concentrate on things like nonsplattering shortening.
By the time he became successful enough to move with his wife and two children into Oak Park, Ill., a mostly white Chicago suburb, their home was the target of a bomb and a fire.
“The good side was, as a kid I got to spend more time with my dad and stay up late, because we’d sit in the tree outside,” recalls Percy Julian Jr., now a civil rights lawyer in Madison, Wis. “He’d sit there with a shotgun. And we’d talk about why someone would want to do this, and how wrong it was and how stupid it was.”
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
A friend sent me this New York Times story about Nova's biography of Percy L. Julian: