Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

Leon (Howard) Sullivan

baptist church philadelphia pastor

Civil-rights activist and Baptist minister, born in Charleston, West Virginia, USA. Ordained in 1939 while still in high school, and encouraged by Adam Clayton Powell Jr, he studied at the Union Theological Seminary (1943–5) and then Columbia University (Master's in Religion 1947). He joined the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and supported the ‘Don't buy where you can't work’ boycott. As pastor at Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia (1950–88), he espoused ‘evangelistic materialism’ and led boycotts of Philadelphia businesses that refused to hire African-Americans. Among the organizations he founded to assist African-American economic development was the Opportunities and Industrial Centers of America, located in an abandoned jailhouse purchased by the congregation (1964). In 1971 he was elected to the board of directors of General Motors Corp. The Sullivan Principles (1977) became guidelines for American corporations doing business in South Africa with the intent of destroying apartheid. Widely honoured, he was given the Freedom Foundation Award (1960), made pastor emeritus at his church (1988), and awarded a Medal of Freedom (1991). He began a $40 million aid programme for Africa in 1992.

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