Sullivan also attributed much of his early influence to his grandmother:
(…) my grandmother Carrie, a constant and powerful presence in my life who taught me early on the importance of faith, determination, faith in God, and especially self-help.
As a teen-ager, Sullivan—who as an adult stood 6 ft 5 in tall—attended Charleston's Garnet High School for blacks and received a basketball and football scholarship to West Virginia State College in 1939. A foot injury ended his athletic career and forced Sullivan to pay for college by working in a steel mill.
Sullivan became a Baptist minister in West Virginia at the age of 18. In 1943, during a visit to West Virginia, noted black minister Adam Clayton Powell convinced Sullivan to move to New York City where he attended the Union Theological Seminary (1943-1945) and later Columbia University (Master's in Religion 1947). He also served as Powell's assistant minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. During this period, Sullivan met his wife Grace, a woman whom he referred to as "Amazing Grace." The two would eventually have 3 children, Hope, Julie and Howard. In 1945 Sullivan and Grace moved to South Orange, New Jersey where Sullivan became pastor at First Baptist Church. Five years later, Leon and Grace moved to Philadelphia where Leon took on the role of pastor of Zion Baptist Church Known there as "the Lion of Zion" he served from 1950 to 1988, eventually increasing its membership from 600 to 6,000 - making it one of the largest congregations in America.
I found that we needed training. Integration without preparation is frustration.In 1964, Sullivan founded Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) of America in an abandoned jail house in North Philadelphia. The program took individuals with little hope and few prospects and offered them job training and instruction in life skills and then helped place them into jobs. The movement quickly spread around the nation. With sixty (affiliated programs in thirty states and the District of Columbia, OIC has grown into a movement, which has served over two million disadvantaged and under-skilled people. This approach also led to the formation of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI) in 1969.
Around the same time, Sullivan established the Zion Investment Association (ZIA), a company which invested in and started new businesses. Sullivan also helped to establish more than 20 programs under the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH) (now headed by his daughter Dr. Julie Helen Sullivan), including the Global Sullivan Principles initiative. Other IFESH programs include the African-African American Summit (now renamed the Leon H. Sullivan Summit), the Peoples Investment Fund for Africa, the Self-Help Investment Program, Teachers for Africa and Schools for Africa. IFESH has placed teachers in Africa, trained African bankers, built schools, developed small businesses, disseminated books and school supplies, created literacy programs, distributed medicines to prevent river-blindness and helped to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The concept of the 10-36 Plan was to create two separate legal entities. For the first 16 months of the subscription period, investors would contribute to the Zion Non-Profit Charitable Trust (ZNPCT), a Community Development Corporation (CDC) that would support education, scholarships for youth, health services and other programs aimed at social uplift. For the remaining 20 months of the subscription period, investors would make payments to a for-profit corporation, Progress Investment Associates (PIA), which would undertake income-generating projects. At the end of 36 months, subscribers would receive one share of common voting stock and would be entitled to participate in yearly shareholders meetings. As William Downes, the treasurer of the 10-36 Plan and the executive director of ZNPCT explains, the idea of the voting system was to encourage community involvement in the plan.
According to Sullivan's philosophy, it was important for people to begin by contributing to the nonprofit side of the effort in order to develop a psychology of giving before receiving. It was also important for people to learn basic economic concepts and to see the 10-36 Plan as a long-term investment. Although stockholders were told that they would eventually receive a dividend, they were cautioned not to expect to obtain profits right away. Their most immediate monetary benefit would be a tax deduction for their contributions to the nonprofit. To participate in the 10-36 Plan, investors had to have faith in the idea of investing in a secure future for the next generation. Rev. Sullivan's vision was to use the tools of the free enterprise system to foster something that is vital to community progress - a sense of ownership and a stake in the common good.
Funds accumulated rapidly under the 10-36 Plan, and were soon used to invest in numerous housing and economic development initiatives. In 1964, PIA made its first investment in an 8-unit apartment building in an all-white community. The rationale for buying this property was that it would help address a long-standing problem facing blacks - racial discrimination in housing. The leaders of the Progress Movement believed that money often has the power to speak louder than words in the struggle to improve race relations. One year after its first investment in housing, PIA built Zion Gardens, a middle-income garden apartment complex in North Philadelphia. The $1 million project was financed by using 10-36 funds to leverage a loan from the Federal Housing Administration and a grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
While pursuing these development projects, Zion continued to build an equity base through the 10-36 Plan. In 1965, the plan was opened to new subscribers from Zion's congregation, and another 450 joined. Over the years, the Progress Movement has had great success with its strategy of using equity accumulated under the 10-36 Plan to leverage funds from public and private sources, including commercial banks and insurance companies.
I found that $400,000 makes a difference in race relations in America!
Progress Plaza, which is located on Broad Street, one of Philadelphia's main thoroughfares, was dedicated in 1968 before a crowd of 10,000 well-wishers. In some sense, the shopping center was the culmination of the Progress Movement's multiple goals. Because it was a major construction project, it created a large number of construction jobs for participants in the OIC program. Through an agreement negotiated with Progress Plaza's chain store tenants, the shopping center also made numerous management job opportunities available to African Americans. To fulfill another one of the Progress Movement's primary goals - to encourage the development of black-owned businesses - ZNPCT created an Entrepreneurial Training Center at Progress Plaza. With major funding from the Ford Foundation, the center was able to offer managerial and entrepreneurial skills training to hundreds of area residents. Today, over half of the 16 stores in Progress Plaza are black-owned businesses.
Another one of the Progress Movement's major goals was to address the social needs of North Philadelphia's community residents. To this end, ZNPCT built a comprehensive Human Services Center that centralizes essential services so that they are easily accessible to area residents. Zion's role was to develop the property and lease it at below-market rent to nonprofit and governmental entities whose programs fulfill ZNPCT's charitable mission. Located adjacent to Progress Plaza, the Center currently houses a Social Security Administration office, an unemployment compensation office, a police training academy, and a health service center run by Temple University.
In 1988, Sullivan retired from Zion Baptist Church. Sullivan was determined to provide a model of self-help and empowerment to the people of Africa. He began using his talent for bringing world leaders together to find solutions to international issues through the establishment of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH) in order to establish and maintain programs and activities in the areas of agriculture, business and economic development, democracy and governance, education and health. These programs would in turn help governments in sub-Saharan Africa reduce poverty and unemployment and build civil societies. To further expand human rights and economic development to all communities, Sullivan created the Global Sullivan Principles of Social Responsibility in 1997. In 1999, the Global Sullivan Principles were issued at the United Nations. This expanded code calls for multinational companies to take an active role in the advancement of human rights and social justice. Then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had this to say about Sullivan's contributions:
It shows how much one individual can do to change lives and societies for the better (...) He was known and respected throughout the world for the bold and innovative role he played in the global campaign to dismantle the system of apartheid in South Africa.
In June 2008 the 8th Leon H. Sullivan Summit was held by the Leon Sullivan Foundation in Arusha Tanzania with more than 4,000 participants. Among the guests of honor were Tanzanian president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and former Nigerian president Obasanjo. Other notable guests included Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, NBA player Kelenna Azubuike of the Golden State Warriors, actor Chris Tucker, and CNN news anchor T.J. Holmes. Delegates from around the world gathered funds, supplies and infrastructure to benefit the host city. Many attendees sponsored and executed individual projects to directly aid local citizens. It was a true example of the Sullivan coined title of the Afripolitan.
Sullivan was the recipient of the following awards: