Just before chemist Percy Julian and his family were to move into their Oak Park home in 1950, someone broke in, poured kerosene on its floors, then threw a firebomb through the bedroom window belonging to his 6-year-old daughter Faith.
The racist attack failed to intimidate the Julian family into abandoning their plans to live in Oak Park. The Prairie-style house on Chicago Avenue was damaged, but still standing.
Seventy-one years later, Faith Julian, the sole surviving member of her family, faces the prospect of losing that home again.
During a recent phone interview with Wednesday Journal, Julian said she was told by employees in the county and township assessor’s offices that her home will be in the annual sale of properties with delinquent taxes, scheduled to take place Nov. 5.
According to a GoFundMe she created after being told her home was going up for tax sale, Julian owes $117,040 in unpaid property taxes on the historic home.
“I know that my parents — they’d be turning over in their graves at the thought of this house going up for tax sale,” Julian said, during a tearful phone interview with Wednesday Journal.
The Julian family fought to protect their right to live in Oak Park. When they moved into their home after it was firebombed (twice), they were greeted with threats of violence and verbal abuse.
These days, Oak Park is proud of its association with Percy Julian, whose ground-breaking work in the field of medicine includes the invention of inexpensive steroids and led to the development of the birth control pill. Percy Julian Middle School was named in his honor.
However, Percy Julian, a Harvard University graduate, and his wife Anna Julian, the first Black woman to receive a doctorate degree in sociology from University of Pennsylvania, received warnings against sending their three children to Oak Park schools. Faith Julian recalls being threatened with gang rape and spat on by classmates.
A bust of her brilliant father today sits in front of the main Oak Park Public Library, the same building where Faith, now 77, learned on Sept. 14 that her family’s East Avenue home was up for tax sale.
“I was just floored,” said Julian, adding she didn’t receive any prior notice of her home’s status.
Having no computer of her own, she returned to the library and set up a GoFundMe account to save her home. Julian said she used online tutorials to create the campaign.
She owes $117,040 in delinquent taxes from the years of 2018 through 2020, the GoFundMe states. Wednesday Journal could not independently verify the home’s tax sale status by our print deadline. And officials with the county and township assessor’s offices could not be reached for comment.
“I’ve never done a GoFundMe, but I’ve read other people’s GoFundMe [campaigns], and sometimes, when I was able to years ago, I used to contribute,” she told Wednesday Journal.
According to her GoFundMe page, she needs $36,445 in the next four weeks to save her home from being listed in the 2018 tax sale, scheduled for Nov. 5. If she raises that initial amount, Julian will have until the end of April of 2022 to raise the rest of the funds needed to satisfy the tax debts. The campaign has a total fundraising goal of $1.1 million, which she itemized per expenditure, including $49,493 in projected property taxes for 2022.
A very private individual, Julian fell on hard times after suffering a decline in her health. In 2017, she had three major surgeries and was confined for four months in rehabilitation. Another four months of in-home nursing care followed.
“My wounds failed to heal, so I spent the next two years in weekly wound care,” she wrote on her GoFundMe.
After several surgeries, she was left with permanent disabilities that require her to use a walker. She lists her medical expenses, which include her hospital bills, insurance and medicine, at $32,645.
Having exhausted her savings and without any income, social security or pension, Julian’s family home has fallen into disrepair, making her situation more dire. She has racked up credit card debt amounting to $210,568 and $188,000 in loans. Plus, an estimated $312,000 worth of repairs is needed on the house.
Her GoFundMe page states that the village of Oak Park “has cited [her] with code violations for needed repairs” on the home and that the village plans to take legal action against her if she cannot produce signed repair contracts from qualified construction companies.
“In order to produce signed contracts, a down payment is required, and I don’t have the money,” Julian wrote.
Oak Park Development Customer Services Director Tammie Grossman confirmed that the village has given her until Nov. 1 to get repairs made.
“We have not issued citations but did give her a date to get everything fixed before we issue citations,” Grossman wrote in an email to Wednesday Journal.
Julian called her current situation her “worst nightmare” and told Wednesday Journal she would be homeless if she fails to raise enough money to save her home from the tax sale. She is trying to remain optimistic.
“My parents named me ‘Faith,’” she said during the phone interview. “And I guess they named me ‘Faith’ for a reason. I don’t want to focus on losing hope. I feel that it’s important to keep hope alive and to keep my faith.”
As of Sept. 27, her GoFundMe had raised $2,855. The GoFundMe platform, while free to use, has a transaction fee of 2.9% plus $.30 per donation. For that reason, some people have opted to donate the money to her directly, according to Julian.
She is not on social media but asks those who are to please share her GoFundMe campaign with their friends and followers to help spread the word. If she is able to save her home and preserve her father’s legacy, Julian has promised to pay her good fortune forward.
“He really believed that everyone should be able to live where they choose,” Julian said of her father. “I know that my parents — it would be their very last wish that the house my dad worked so hard to stay in gets saved from tax sale.”
To access the GoFundMe online, visit: https://bit.ly/3ibgbcI.
Faith Julian’s GoFundMe campaign
Donations can be made to the cause through Faith Julian’s GoFundMe campaign, which can be accessed online at the following address: https://www.gofundme.com/f/preservation-of-the-percy-julian-historic-home