Contemporary academic corporate governance narratives have a blind spot. They focus on institutions, rules, regulations, processes, procedures, intermediaries, and market forces. Yet, missing in this narrative, is the impact of corporate leadership. Ignoring the “black box” of corporate leadership, particularly individual actors, renders an incomplete descriptive assessment as well as potential miscalculations. The examination of key historical figures and their corporate activism provides an important lens through which to identify potential challenges and opportunities related to the contemporary ESG movement.

Generally, this essay examines corporate leadership’s potential to address socio-political issues through the prism of Civil Rights Movement activism. Specifically, it reflects on the far-reaching legacy of Reverend Leon H. Sullivan: his Selective Patronage Movement; Opportunities Industrialization Centers; International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH); cooperative investment strategies; entrepreneurialism; longstanding service on the General Motors board of directors; development of the Sullivan Principles to combat apartheid in South Africa; and the contribution of the Global Sullivan Principles in promoting human rights everywhere. Sullivan’s use of various modes of economic power and coercion illustrate how corporate leadership can promote change both intramurally and in society at large. The analysis also reveals some challenges and limitations that remain relevant today. Part I of this Article reintroduces contemporary scholars to Reverend Leon H. Sullivan: his early origins, influences, and the philosophy informing his activism. Part II describes his broad legacy of economic activism. Part III examines how Sullivan’s civil and human rights activism inform modern corporate activism. Finally, Part IV draws conclusions and suggests directions for future research.

Included in

Accounting Law Commons, Administrative Law Commons, Admiralty Commons, Agency Commons, Agriculture Law Commons, Air and Space Law Commons, Animal Law Commons, Antitrust and Trade Regulation Commons, Banking and Finance Law Commons, Bankruptcy Law Commons, Business Organizations Law Commons, Civil Law Commons, Civil Procedure Commons, Civil Rights and Discrimination Commons, Commercial Law Commons, Common Law Commons, Communications Law Commons, Comparative and Foreign Law Commons, Computer Law Commons, Conflict of Laws Commons, Constitutional Law Commons, Construction Law Commons, Consumer Protection Law Commons, Contracts Commons, Courts Commons, Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Cultural Heritage Law Commons, Disability Law Commons, Disaster Law Commons, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Commons, Education Law Commons, Elder Law Commons, Election Law Commons, Energy and Utilities Law Commons, Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Commons, Environmental Law Commons, Estates and Trusts Commons, European Law Commons, Evidence Commons, Family Law Commons, First Amendment Commons, Food and Drug Law Commons, Fourteenth Amendment Commons, Fourth Amendment Commons, Gaming Law Commons, Government Contracts Commons, Health Law and Policy Commons, Housing Law Commons, Human Rights Law Commons, Immigration Law Commons, Indigenous, Indian, and Aboriginal Law Commons, Insurance Law Commons, Intellectual Property Law Commons, International Humanitarian Law Commons, International Law Commons, International Trade Law Commons, Internet Law Commons, Judges Commons, Jurisdiction Commons, Jurisprudence Commons, Juvenile Law Commons, Labor and Employment Law Commons, Land Use Law Commons, Law and Economics Commons, Law and Gender Commons, Law and Philosophy Commons, Law and Politics Commons, Law and Psychology Commons, Law and Race Commons, Law and Society Commons, Law Enforcement and Corrections Commons, Law of the Sea Commons, Legal Biography Commons, Legal Education Commons, Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Commons, Legal History Commons, Legal Profession Commons, Legal Remedies Commons, Legal Writing and Research Commons, Legislation Commons, Litigation Commons, Marketing Law Commons, Medical Jurisprudence Commons, Military, War, and Peace Commons, National Security Law Commons, Natural Law Commons, Natural Resources Law Commons, Nonprofit Organizations Law Commons, Oil, Gas, and Mineral Law Commons, Organizations Law Commons, Other Law Commons, President/Executive Department Commons, Privacy Law Commons, Property Law and Real Estate Commons, Public Law and Legal Theory Commons, Religion Law Commons, Retirement Security Law Commons, Rule of Law Commons, Science and Technology Law Commons, Second Amendment Commons, Secured Transactions Commons, Securities Law Commons, Sexuality and the Law Commons, Social Welfare Law Commons, State and Local Government Law Commons, Supreme Court of the United States Commons, Taxation-Federal Commons, Taxation-Federal Estate and Gift Commons, Taxation-State and Local Commons, Taxation-Transnational Commons, Tax Law Commons, Torts Commons, Transnational Law Commons, Transportation Law Commons, Water Law Commons, Workers' Compensation Law Commons