Lessons from the Early Beginnings of Black Empowerment

In the late 1960s, the civil rights struggle had given way to a more militant black power movement. Leon Sullivan and the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) offered a business-friendly alternative: black empowerment through job training and economic advancement. In this episode, Jessica Levy talks with us about how OIC, which began in a repurposed police station in North Philadelphia, offered vocational and corporate education programs for African Americans in partnership with American companies like Gulf Oil and General Motors.

Following their success in America, OIC and American businesses exported these methods to apartheid-era South Africa, arguing that the lessons of desegregation in the United States could apply there too.  

Related Collections

National Foreign Trade Council
Chamber of Commerce of the United States


Banner image: The People's Art: Black Murals (1978), Hagley Digital Archives

Jessica Levy is a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University's Department of African American Studies. From 2017-2018 she was a Jefferson Scholar/Hagley Library Dissertation Fellow in Business and Politics at Hagley.  Follow her on Twitter at @jessicaannlevy.