Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan was unrivaled by few men in the 20th Century. During his lifetime, Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan impacted millions of people throughout the world, but particularly throughout the United States and the Continent of Africa, by advocating self-help principles of empowerment and community development and self reliance. Under the mentorship of A. Phillip Randolph, who lead the premier March on Washington Movement that undergirded the quest for equal rights for minorities, particularly Blacks, the Reverend Dr. Sullivan developed his unique ideas on nonviolent, direct action and on the development of the community through community-based organizations. A.Phillip Randolph taught the Reverend Dr. Sullivan, “how to organize…how to mobilize”. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Reverend Dr. Sullivan initiated a successful “Selective Patronage” operation in Philadelphia to boycott companies that did not offer employment opportunities to black men and women. Later, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, would adopt the highly successful Selective Patronage program and transform it into the Operation Breadbasket program.
As job opportunities began to open up Reverend Dr. Sullivan realized that a trained workforce did not exist to fill them. In 1964, as a response to these newly opened opportunities, he founded the OIC, a skills training program providing training and retraining on a massive scale. Currently there are 60 active centers in 17 countries around the world. He also founded the Progress Investment Associates(PIA) and the Zion Non-profit Charitable Trust(ZNPCT) ZNPCT was established to fund housing, human services, educational and other non-profit ventures for inner city dwellers. Zion Gardens, an apartment complex, constructed in 1965, Progress Plaza a two million dollar shopping center, built in 1968, and the Progress Human Services Center, built in 1987, are just a few examples the venture undertaken by PIA and ZNPCT. The Reverend Dr. Sullivan also established inner-city retirement and assisted living complexes in Philadelphia and other cities throughout the United States , named Opportunities Towers.
Throughout the late 1990’s , the reverend Dr. Sullivan brought world and business leaders together to expand the successful Sullivan Principles into Global Sullivan Principles of Corporate Social Responsibility. In November, 1999 at a special meeting at the UN, the Reverend D. Sullivan and Secretary general Koki Annan formally announced these new Principles before world and business leaders.
The Global Sullivan Principles will advance the cause of human rights and economic and social justice not only in Africa but everywhere in the Post-Cold war world there is the need for the advancement of human rights.
The Reverend Dr. Sullivan has been the recipient of many commendations throughout his life, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President George Bush in 1999, In 1999 the Notre Dame Award, awarded to persons who have achieved international recognition for the contribution of the welfare of humanity the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award presented by Preside Clinton in 1999, the NAACP Spingarn Award, the Kappa Alpha Laurel Wreath and more than fifty doctoral degrees.