"The Lion of Zion": Leon H. Sullivan and the Pursuit of Social and Economic Justice

By Franklin, V. P. | The Journal of African American History, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

"The Lion of Zion": Leon H. Sullivan and the Pursuit of Social and Economic Justice


Franklin, V. P., The Journal of African American History


INTRODUCTION

  I was beholden to no one but God, Zion [Baptist Church], and
  [my wife] Grace. My church made me free, so much so that in
  Philadelphia, I was called "the Lion of Zion."
  --Leon H. Sullivan, 1998 (1)

In recounting the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, there are some locations that cannot be left out of the story. Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, and Lowndes County, Alabama; Jackson and Greenwood, Mississippi; Albany and Atlanta, Georgia, are places that are essential to the story of "the Movement." While many would add Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the horrible murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner at the beginning of the "Freedom Summer" campaigns in June 1964, it is likely that few would make room for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the list of cities that contributed to the end of apartheid, American style.

Adding the "City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection" to the overall story of the Civil Rights Movement, however, would allow historians and other researchers to address a perspective that has arisen among some researchers of the most important movement for social change in the United States in the 20th century. Some historians and social scientists have raised the issue of the "unfinished business" or "lost promise" of the Civil Rights Movement. These authors suggest that rather than pursuing issues of "economic justice" that were associated with the Communist Party and the organized labor movement in the 1930s and in World War II, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations decided to pursue the desegregation of public education and accommodations and black voting rights. These authors note that it was only in the last years of his life that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took up the issue of economic and employment discrimination with his support of the Memphis sanitation workers' strike and the "Poor People's Campaign" in 1967 and 1968. With the advent of the Black Power Movement, the civil rights coalition splintered and demands for economic justice were drowned out in the cries for Black Power, Chicano Power, Women's and Gay Liberation; and the rise of "identity politics" in the 1970s. (2)

The public career of Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, the pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, not only involved direct connections with civil rights campaigns launched by the NAACP and Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), but also focused on economic justice issues for African American workers, the expansion of black business enterprises, and the internationalization of the social justice and economic empowerment issues closely associated with the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. In the wake of the launching of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, African American ministers in Philadelphia organized a boycott of businesses that refused to hire black and other minority workers. Between 1960 and 1963 the "Selective Patronage Campaign" led by Rev. Leon Sullivan and the "400 Ministers" was successful in opening up employment opportunities for black workers in hundreds of businesses that previously hired "whites only." But what happened in Philadelphia inspired boycotts in New York City and in other northern cities, and the movement for economic justice for decades. "As a result of the success of the selective patronage program in Philadelphia," Sullivan recalled, "I came to know Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an associate and friend." More importantly, "the concept of selective patronage became the 'economic arm' of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference" with the launching of "Operation Breadbasket" in 1967 under the leadership of Rev. Jesse Jackson, who subsequently organized People United to Save Humanity (PUSH). (3)

The successful boycott led to an increase in employment opportunities for African Americans in Philadelphia, but the problem soon arose of the lack of availability of black workers with the skills and training needed by local industries. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"The Lion of Zion": Leon H. Sullivan and the Pursuit of Social and Economic Justice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.