Percy Julian, Genius

Consider the lilies of the field: they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.

The story I will tell you tonight is a story of wonder and amazement, almost a story of miracles. It is a story of laughter and tears. It is a story of human beings, therefore, a story of meanness, of stupidity, of kindness and nobility.

I shall never forget how beautiful life seemed to me that morning, under the spell of an Alabama forest. But in the midst of that beauty, I came across a Negro body hanging from a tree. He had been lynched a few hours earlier. He didn’t look like a criminal; he just looked like a scared boy.

On the way back, I encountered and killed a rattlesnake. For years afterward, every time I saw a white man, I involuntarily saw the contours of a rattlesnake head on his face. Many years later, a reporter asked me what were my greatest nightmares from my childhood in the South. I told him, ‘White folks and rattlesnakes.’

What might I have accomplished had I not had to face the obstacles I faced?

According to Harlan Ellison and my grandmother, “You’ll go far Amy, because you have heart.” Author of 40 books, former exec., Nebula Award nominee, Poor.

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