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E. Ginger Sullivan

Civic leader E. Ginger Sullivan was born on July 30, 1933 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Catherine Caesar and James Williamson. Sullivan attended Craneville Elementary School and Pittsfield High School. In 1955, Sullivan received her B.A. degree from Northeastern University. She later received her J.D. degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in the 1970s.

While attending Northeastern University, Sullivan served as a hepatic research technician at Yale School of Medicine. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she worked as a medical assistant. She later joined Massachusetts General Hospital as a cardiovascular researcher. An active member of Christ Church in Boston, Massachusetts, she helped plan the church’s trip to attend the March on Washington in 1963. In 1975, Sullivan’s husband, Dr. Louis Sullivan, was appointed dean of Morehouse College Medical Education Program. During his deanship, Sullivan clerked for a Fulton County Superior Court Judge and founded the Friends of Morehouse School of Medicine. After President George H.W. Bush appointed Dr. Louis Sullivan U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1988, Sullivan served as a spokesperson for the National Cancer Institute on the early detection and treatment of breast and prostate cancers in 1989. During this time, Sullivan also joined the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships for three years. In 1993, Sullivan and her family returned to Atlanta, where Dr. Louis Sullivan served as president of Morehouse School of Medicine until 2002.

Sullivan served as founder and co-sponsor of The Sullivan 5K Run/Walk Road Race for Health & Fitness on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She has also served on the boards of the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theatre, True Colors Theatre in Atlanta, Wolf Trap, the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the Arthritis Foundation of Georgia, and was a strong supporter of Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB) and Africare. A member of the Buckhead Cascade Chapter of Links, Inc. and the auxiliaries to the Atlanta Medical Association and the National Medical Association, Sullivan was active in the Atlanta community.

Sullivan and her husband, Dr. Louis Sullivan, have three children: Paul, Shanta, and Halsted.

E. Ginger Sullivan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 22, 2019.

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Craneville Elementary School

Pittsfield High School

Northeastern University

Atlanta Law School

First Name

E. Ginger

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Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard or South Africa

Favorite Quote

The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow

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Favorite Food


Short Description

Civic leader E. Ginger Sullivan (1933- ) founded the Friends of Morehouse School of Medicine and served as a spokesperson for the National Cancer Institute from 1989 to 1993.


Yale School of Medicine

Massachusetts General Hospital

Superior Court of Fulton County

National Cancer Institute

Favorite Color


Kenny Leon

Theatrical and television director and actor Kenny Leon was born Kenneth Leroy Leon on February 10, 1956, in Tallahassee, Florida, to Annie Ruth and Leroy Leon. The oldest of five siblings, Leon’s family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, when he was nine years old. At Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Leon got involved in the federal government’s Upward Bound Program which encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. In 1978, Leon graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, with his B.A. degree in political science. He attended Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles for a brief period before returning to Atlanta.

In 1979, Leon returned to Atlanta to try his hand at theater. He soon became a member of the Academy Theater in Atlanta where he worked as an actor and director. Often times, Leon would run outreach programs at prisons and schools; one such play was performed entirely by the homeless. All of the profits from the homeless-cast play were contributed to local homeless shelters. In 1988, after years of touring and directing across the country, Leon was offered a job as associate artistic director at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. By 1990, he was the senior artistic director and would lead the company for the next ten years. By selecting a wide range of multicultural plays for the theater, Leon increased the minority attendance and the national reputation of the Alliance, and quintupled the endowment.

In 2002, after leaving the Alliance, Leon founded his own theater company in Atlanta, the True Colors Theater Company, which focused on promulgating and preserving Negro-American theatrical classics. Leon has continued to make waves in the theater world outside of Atlanta. In 2004, he directed his first Broadway play, reviving Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun for which he cast hip hop mogul, Sean Combs in the role of Walter Lee Younger; in 2007, Leon directed a television adaptation of the play. Between 2004 and 2007, Leon directed the world and Broadway premieres of August Wilson’s final two plays, Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf; he also directed the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s first opera, Margaret Garner. While he continues to ensure the success of True Colors, Leon plans to put together all of August Wilson’s ten plays at the Kennedy Center as a tribute to the deceased playwright.

Leon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 9, 2007.

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Interview Date


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Northeast High School

Clark Atlanta University

Campbell Park Elementary School

John Hopkins Middle School

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Favorite Vacation Destination

South Africa

Favorite Quote

All You Have Is Your Time And Talent. Use Them Wisely.

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Favorite Food


Short Description

Stage director and theater chief executive Kenny Leon (1956 - ) was the artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre and the founder of the True Colors Theatre Company. Leon's directorial achievements included the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun; productions of an assortment of August Wilson’s plays; and the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s first opera, Margaret Garner.


Academy Theater

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Alliance Theatre

True Colors Theatre Company

Favorite Color

Blue, Red

Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenny Leon's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon remembers being raised by his maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon recalls moving to St. Petersburg, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon describes his grade school experiences in St. Petersburg, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon remembers celebrating the holidays</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon talks about segregation in St. Petersburg, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon remembers Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kenny Leon recalls his early interest in acting</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kenny Leon talks about the Upward Bound program</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon recalls his decision to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon recalls the start of his acting career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon remembers the Civil Rights Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon describes the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon talks about his community theater programs</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon recalls his theater experiences in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon remembers working with the Center Stage Theater in Baltimore, Maryland</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon recalls working for the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon remembers August Wilson, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon remembers August Wilson, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon talks about his tenure at the Alliance Theatre</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon recalls diversifying Alliance Theatre's staff and programming</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon talks about theatre directors</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon recalls leaving the Alliance Theatre</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon remembers founding the True Colors Theatre Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun,' pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun,' pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon talks about the directors of August Wilson's plays</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon remembers his directorial vision for 'A Raisin in the Sun'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon recalls directing August Wilson's 'Gem of the Ocean'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon remembers directing August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon talks about directing 'Margaret Garner'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon describes the True Colors Theatre Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon talks about his Tony Award nominations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon describes August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon describes the playwrights he admires</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon describes his concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon describes his plans for the future</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon shares a message to future generations</a>







Kenny Leon recalls the start of his acting career
Kenny Leon remembers founding the True Colors Theatre Company
And at that time, I was a political science major and sort of a drama minor, you know what I mean, all of my electives were in theater, but I was preparing to go to law school, because that's when my mom [Annie Wilson Holtzclaw] said, "You're a first generation college student--you're going to be a minister or you're going to be a lawyer, or you're going to do something that they know." And then I went to law school for, you know, for like that long. And when I left, I went to law school in L.A. [Los Angeles, California]--Southwestern University School of Law [Southwestern Law School], and I left there and came back to Florida for a minute. I said, I can't live in Florida, so I came back to Atlanta [Georgia], and when I came back to Atlanta, I had an audition for the Academy of Music and Theater [sic. Academy Theatre], and this guy, Frank Wittow who died last year--he was a great friend of mine, he had this company that would do plays in prisons and in the school system, and I got a job doing that, working improvisationally through theatre to create plays, and then also doing it in legitimate plays, like, you know, 'Richard III' [William Shakespeare] and 'Hamlet' [William Shakespeare]. At the end of that year, he said, "Okay, so you want to come back and work for me for two hundred dollars a week, or do you want to go back to law school?" So, I was like, "Ah, I think I like this." And, at that time, I was also starting to do television commercials, because I looked a certain way at a certain time, and my mother, who was a dietician in Florida--I think she was concerned about, "Is he going to make a living," or whatever, and she was watching television with one of her patients and she said, "That's my son, that's my son." She said, "Oh, he does commercials, oh he can make a million dollars." I was like, really? So, at that point, she said "Okay, I understand, you know, okay, I understand."$$What was your first commercial?$$It was an Aaron [Aaron's, Inc.] rent furniture television commercial, and there was a thing about a man was working so hard that he was not spending any time with his mother. And at the end of the commercial, she would take this, her purse and hit the man in the stomach, and I was the man. And, so it was like a really cute, funny commercial.$I had no idea I was going to start another theater company, but then Riley Temple [HistoryMaker Riley K. Temple], who is the head of the Arena Stage board in D.C. [Washington, D.C.], and Chris Manos [Christopher B. Manos], who is the head of Theater of the Stars in Atlanta [Georgia], they both independently tried to talk me into starting a national black theater company. And I was like, why would I want to do that, I want to--you know. And, at the same time I got my first opportunity to direct 'A Raisin in the Sun' [Lorraine Hansberry] on Broadway with P. Diddy [Sean Combs; P. Diddy] and [HistoryMaker] Phylicia Rashad, so I wanted to do more of that, but you know, the weight of these two men saying, we need a national black theater company--so, I went into the room and said okay, if I had to do a theater company, what would it look like, you know? What would a national black theater look like? And to me, it would look like a theater that was all-inclusive of all people, because I wanted everyone--I didn't want to do a black theater for black people. I wanted to honor black theater, but in the midst of the broader community. So, I was like wow, if I can figure out a way to do that, it would be great. So, what I decided to do was to--at the center of the work, to do African American classics, which those plays--those are the plays that no one's doing. You know, if you're in the Alliance Theatre or the Arena Stage, or the Goodman Theatre [Chicago, Illinois], you're not doing plays by James Baldwin and Les Lee [Leslie Lee], and Zora Neale Hurston. You're not doing that, so I was like, wow, as soon as a black writer dies, that's it, you know. Their work don't get--that's it. So, and if you read James Baldwin or Langston Hughes, you're like, that was some great work. Or if you read Lorraine Hansberry's other work other than 'Raisin in the Sun,' that was some great work. And you got all these new generations of people that will never know these people, and these people were great Americans. So I was like wow, if True Colors [True Colors Theatre Company] can be the company that embrace that work--because if you're these other large regional theaters--you're only going to do the hottest thing that just left New York [New York] or just getting ready to go to New York, because it's about making your money, but you only got one space for diversity, you're only going to do one black play and one Hispanic play, so they couldn't do it. So, I was like, if we did that, that would be something no one else is doing. But, to be different, I don't want to just do all black plays, but then, let's flip that model because the model for most American theater is to do all Anglo-American work at the center. Right? And then they just diversify one or two spots on the edges for other people. So, it's like, I don't know, let's put the classics in the center, and then we'll do three or four plays by everybody else, because I'm not racist, I'm not sexist. And that's when I said that's what I would do if I was running the theater. So, Chris Manos said, "Here's fifty thousand dollars, start it." So, I was like, "Well, you know I'm not going to be able to spend all my time there because I've got to develop myself as a director." He said, "You don't need to, you just need to get it going. You need to be the inspiration, you need to be the vision for it." So, I went around the country and I asked these great people like Zelda Fichandler and all these people, and Zelda ran--you know, she started the regional theater movement--she started the Arena Stage about fifty years ago. So, I talked to all these people--Ben Cameron, and these people said, "Look--," Woodie King [HistoryMaker Woodie King, Jr.], who's a great pioneer of the black theater movement. So I talked to black folks, white folks--I talked to the great [HistoryMaker] Lloyd Richards just before he died, I talked to August Wilson, and they said, "Look, the reason these black--," and at the same time you got to remember black theaters in the last fifteen years were dying, so you had these large theaters that were trying to diversify, and they were getting a lot of funding to do that, but they were only putting in one play, one play. And then you had the black theaters that wasn't getting--they weren't getting enough money, and they were dying. So, now you have a problem in America. You don't have culturally specific theaters and you don't have the large theaters doing enough of the work--that can't do enough of the work. So, it's like wow. So we started this company to do that.$$And the name of the company? True Colors?$$True Colors Theatre, which means, you know, I promised myself to always be in pursuit of truth and clarity, and that's truth and clarity about life, about who we are. So, every play is an effort to shed some light on the truth as we know it. And sometimes that can be in a comedy, sometimes that can be in a musical, sometimes that can be in a drama.