Happy Thanksgiving. Your house just got firebombed.

Happy Thanksgiving. Your house just got firebombed.

Imagine that you are a prominent and successful African-American research chemist with multiple patents. You have just been voted “Chicagoan of the Year” in a poll by the Chicago Sun-TImes. You and your family are among the first people of color to buy a home in a white community in a Chicago suburb. It’s Thanksgiving.

You haven’t moved in yet, but your house is firebombed. That’s not much to give thanks about.

Newspaper clippings about the bombing and more.

Once you move in, imagine that this happens again, six months later, when someone tosses dynamite into your house. Sometimes there are crosses put on your lawn.

You’re forced to hire armed guards and guard your home at night yourself with a shotgun, sitting in a tree, sometimes joined by your young son.

This pattern of racism is something you’ve faced your entire career, as you were first denied academic appointments, then industry jobs. As your children grow up, they will face issues in school, where they are among the few black students.

But now imagine that the community where your home was firebombed decides to stand behind you and welcome you as one of its most admired citizens. Many of these townspeople will stand with you, guarding your home against further attack. After all, you’ve become one of the most brilliant and successful scientists in the entire United States.

This is the story of Percy Julian, whose home in Oak Park, Illinois, was firebombed on Thanksgiving Day in 1950.

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