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Leon Sullivan was one of Charleston's leading advocates of equal rights during the late 20th century. He was also known nationwide as a businessman and civic leader. Leon Sullivan became the first African American member of General Motor's Board of Directors. He was also a leading voice against South African apartheid. Although the city of Charleston has not yet created a monument or marker in his honor, this entry will guide users to the area where Sullivan lived and the street that now bears his name.

  • Leon Sullivan Way was formerly known as Broad Street before it was changed in honor of the civil rights leader.

Born in Charleston W.V. October 6,1922 Leon Sullivan became a Baptist minister at the age of 18 . Sullivan who lived with his grandmother growing up realized at an early age that he would spend his life fighting racism ,bigotry, and discrimination .

 While at  the young age of 10 Sullivan experienced  racial injustice at a local drugstore who's owner refused him service, Sullivan decided that he would visit each drugstore movie house and restaurant in the area until he was granted the same type of recognition afforded to his white counter parts .

 Sullivan found success when he entered a inexpensive restaurant in which he sat down to eat . When the store's owner approached him to ask him to leave , Sullivan stood up and recited the nations Preamble to the U.S. Constitution . The stores owner who was caught off guard but impressed by Sullivan's knowledge , gave Sullivan a free  hamburger and doughnut and told him he could dine there anytime he chose too.

Sullivan who was found to be a very gifted athlete  grew to be 6ft 5in tall and was awarded a basketball scholarship to W.V. State College . While attending W.V. State College in 1942 Sullivan met his idol , Adam Clayton Powell J.R. U.S. Representative and Pastor who encouraged Sullivan to come to New York upon graduation from college .

 In 1943 Sullivan moved to New York to study Theology at Union Theological Seminary and Sociology at Columbia University. Powell assisted Sullivan in securing a job with Bell Telephone Company in which Sullivan was hired as a coin box collector , which it was found that no African American had held a job of this tenure anywhere in the U.S. During this time frame making Sullivan the first ever in the country.

 In the 1950s North Philadelphia was seen as a slum area , while many whites blamed blacks as for the deteriorating conditions in this area . Sullivan saw the problem as greedy landlords and overcrowding , with no new construction in the are along with unkempt property as a problem causing a lack of pride in these areas. Also a lack of jobs would cause the situation to worsen as crimes would rise , as those without would steal to attain what they wanted .

 Sullivan then created the Philadelphia Committee which work hand in hand with he police depts to clean up the area .Sullivan's effort came to fruition and crime dropped in the area in which he was awarded by the National Junior of Commerce ,as one of the ten outstanding men in America.

 In 1954 Sullivan founded( OIC ) Opportunities Industrialization Center which was designed to train the black youth in all facets of mainstream America . I myself attended (OIC) In which we were taught some computer , secretarial , along with a trade skill which was thought to put us at an advantage in the working class as we had some experience in these areas .

 In 1968 Sullivan's efforts in helping others improve living conditions earned him visits from U.S. Presidents , as well as numerous honors including the Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal In 1987, for his efforts in ending Apartheid in South Africa .

In 1977 Sullivan developed the Sullivan Principles in which he developed a code of conduct for human rights . Sullivan's goal was to to bring equal rights and social justice , economic fairness in every country through out the world .

Reverend Leon Sullivan past away on April 24th 2001.

African News Service, May 21, 1999. The Christian Century, May 23, 2001. Ebony, August, 1999. Emerge, July-August 1995, p., 20. Jet, March 30, 1992, p. 4; March 27, 1995, p. 55. M2 Presswire, November 8, 1999. New York Times, May 18, 1987, p. A12; June 4, 1987, pp. Al, D6; April 18, 1991, p. A8; May 10, 1995, p. A3. PR Newswire, April 26, 2001. U.S. Newswire, October 12, 2000. —Marilyn J. Williams