Sunday, August 05, 2007
Percy Julian - Scientist, Civil Rights Activist, Corporate Leader
This was a truly great and intelligent American. Having been born into a family in which education and 'doing your best' trumps everything else that might stand as an obstacle in your way - this man lead a rich life in which he rose to the top of his profession despite the racial ignorance that attempted to block him.
His life's story needs to be presented today to all young Black children of today. Where as when he grew up in the early years of the 1900's school for Black people ended at the 8th grade. There was no need for Black people who were being tracked into jobs of field hands and maids to have an advanced education. When the White controlled public libraries refused to allow them admission....his father built up his own library for the children's consumption.
Later on in life when various universities denied him admissions to earn his doctorate in chemistry.....he traveled to Europe to purse his goal and was successful.
As an employee of the Glidden Corporation he was responsible for several important discoveries that lead to patents in the medical field. He started his own corporation when the Glidden got out of the medical business to focus exclusively on paints. He overcame challenges put forth by the Mexican government to protect a homegrown company against competition from Julian's company. This lead to a new collapse of his entire enterprise. He found another source of the important resource that was one thought only available in Mexico and became a multi-millionaire as the head of Julian Laboratories.
His company became the major employer of Black chemists and scientists that others rejected due to their skin color. Mr. Julian demanded that his employees work at their full potential and commit to a higher standard of performance. So much of his actions and theories run counter to what is popular today in certain areas within our community.
The name Percy Julian needs to be resurected within our community as we attempt to find our way forward in communities that will depend increasingly on enterprising individuals to create jobs where the traditional industries have departed.