Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Sutton, Percy (1920–2009)

Sutton began his long political career in the 1950s as a Democrat in Harlem, joining the ranks of the “Gang of Four” prominent black politicians in New York. He served in World War II as an intelligence officer for the Tuskegee Airmen and supported his law degree through the GI Bill. After serving in the Korean War, he started a law practice in 1953. His most well-known client was Malcolm X, who Sutton represented both before and after his death. In the 1960s he was arrested as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi and Alabama, and he served as Manhattan’s borough president for more than 10 years, after which he invested in radio and theater and remained a leader until his death.