Leon Sullivan was 10 or 12 when he was told he couldn’t sit at the lunch counter and drink a coca-cola.
“Stand on your feet, boy. You can’t sit here,” the proprietor said. The incident inspired the young Sullivan to lead a private desegregation drive in Charleston, WV, his hometown. His efforts were successful; the owner of a segregated restaurant offered him a free meal, according to an obituary published by the New York Times when Sullivan passed away in 2001.
Sullivan’s early victory paved the way for a life dedicated to racial justice, both in America and abroad. The Sullivan Principles, developed over two decades, created a corporate code of conduct that paved the way for the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Sullivan was a preacher, theologian and tireless crusader for human rights. In the YouTube video below, Sullivan visits students at Piedmont Elementary School, located in Charleston’s historic east end.