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FunTimes Magazine

The Rev. Leon H. Sullivan: Champion of Economic Empowerment and Civil Rights

Jul 23, 2023 02:00PM ● By Randall Giancaterino

Image: Photograph of Rev. Leon Howard Sullivan. Source: Emory University

The Rev. Leon H. Sullivan was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist who promoted self-help in the form of creating job training opportunities to advance the African-American community. He believed economic empowerment was the road to overcome poverty and oppression. The Rev. Sullivan, a board member at General Motors, began boycotting racist businesses in the 1940s, with protests in Washington, D.C. By the 1960s, his strategies were so effective, his respected work gained momentum, and he began collaborating with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Jackson. The collaboration led to Jackson's Operation Breadbasket, a national program that created economic opportunities in Black communities. The Rev. Sullivan spearheaded his work and employed the faith community as a way to achieve his mission of self-empowerment, which included many economic development projects in North Philadelphia, where communities of color benefitted. This engaging video (end of article) captures an educational presentation at the Rev.  Dr. Leon H. Sullivan Arrivals Hall at the Philadelphia International Airport organized and facilitated by Ronald Howard. The Leon H. Sullivan Charitable Trust sponsors community outreach to promote Rev. Sullivan's legacy, as a part of the Centennial Celebration. The Rev. Sullivan, who died at age 78, would have been 100 years old in 2022. Established in 1966, the Leon H. Sullivan Charitable Trust, a nonprofit, offers resources that address social and economic equality.

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Video courtesy of The Leon H. Sullivan Charitable Trust and Ronald Howard