John M. Perkins

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John M. Perkins
John M. Perkins
Born (1930-06-16) June 16, 1930 (age 92)
Lawrence County, Mississippi

John M. Perkins (born June 16, 1930) is an American Christian minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher, best-selling author, philosopher and community developer. He is the founder and President Emeritus of the John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation with his wife, Vera Mae Perkins (also known as "Grandma Perkins"). He is co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). Despite being a third-grade dropout, Perkins has been recognized for his work with 17 honorary doctorate degrees from schools including Belhaven University, Virginia University of Lynchburg, Wheaton College, Gordon College, Taylor University, Northern Seminary and Millsaps College. He has served on the Boards of Directors of World Vision and Prison Fellowship. Perkins has advised and/or served on the Presidential Task Forces of five U.S. Presidents. He is the author of 17 books, including the best-selling One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race. For more information on Perkins' Manifesto and Master Class go to

Early life[edit]

John M. Perkins was born in 1930 in New Hebron, Mississippi. His mother died of pellagra when he was just seven months old.[1][2] Abandoned by his father, he was raised by his grandmother and extended family, who worked as sharecroppers.[1][2] In 1947, he moved away from Mississippi at the urging of his family, who worried that he might be in danger following the fatal shooting of his brother, Clyde, by a police officer.[1][2] He settled in southern California. In June 1951, Perkins married Vera Mae Buckley; earlier that year, he had been drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces. Perkins served in Okinawa during the Korean War.[3] In 1957, Perkins's son, Spencer, invited him to church and Perkins converted to Christianity.[1]


In 1960, Perkins moved with his wife and children from California to Mendenhall, Mississippi, which neighbors his childhood hometown of New Hebron.[4] There, in 1964, he established Voice of Calvary Bible Institute.[5][6]

Motivated by a desire to help their neighbors as well as their own children, Vera Mae started running a day-care center from their home that from 1966 to 1968 became part of the federally funded Head Start Program.[7] Initially concerned solely with evangelism and Bible literacy, Perkins had a growing conviction that the gospel of Jesus Christ addressed spiritual and physical needs.[8]

In 1965, Perkins supported voter registration efforts in Simpson County, and in 1967 he became involved in school desegregation when he enrolled his son Spencer in the previously all-white Mendenhall High School.[6][9]

In the fall of 1969, Perkins became the leader in an economic boycott of white-owned stores in Mendenhall. On February 7, 1970, following the arrest of students who had taken part in a protest march in Mendenhall, Perkins was arrested and tortured by white police officers in Brandon Jail.[2][6][10]

Remarkably, Perkins emerged from this terrible experience with a commitment to his vision of a holistic ministry — one that saw the bondage racism inflicted on whites as well as the damage and deprivation of the black community. He summarized his philosophy of Christian ministry in the "three Rs" — relocation, redistribution and reconciliation.[6] He expounded on this philosophy in the 1976 book A Quiet Revolution: The Christian response to human need, a strategy for today.[11]

By the mid-seventies, Voice of Calvary, Jackson and Mendenhall Ministries were operating thrift stores, health clinics, a housing cooperative, and classes in Bible and theology. Perkins was in demand as a speaker in evangelical churches, colleges, and conventions across the country.[5][6]

In 1982, the Perkinses left Voice of Calvary Ministries to return to California, where they founded Harambee Christian Family Center, now called Harambee Ministries, in northwest Pasadena.[5]

In 1989, Perkins founded the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), a network of evangelical congregations and organizations working in deprived urban settings.[6][12] CCDA sought to invite evangelicals into social justice and civil rights.[13]

After the death of his son Spencer in 1998, Perkins established the Spencer Perkins Center, the youth arm of the John M. Perkins Foundation.[14] It has developed youth programs such as After School Tutoring, Summer Arts Camp, Junior and College Internship Program, Good News Bible Club, Young Life and Jubilee Youth Garden. The foundation also has a housing arm, Zechariah 8, providing affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income families, with a focus on single mothers.[15]

On September 17, 2016, Perkins became President Emeritus of the John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation as his three daughters, Elizabeth, Priscilla, and Deborah Perkins, became co-presidents of the organization.[16][17]


In 2012, Calvin College began the John M. Perkins Leadership Fellows, a cohort of students who address issues like poverty, injustice, racism and materialism, and strive to be servant leaders who are committed to the renewal and restoration of their communities.[18]

In 2004, Seattle Pacific University opened the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.[19]

In 2009, the band Switchfoot released the song "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)". It includes the line "John Perkins said it right / Love is the final fight."[20]

Honorary Doctorates[edit]

John M. Perkins Fellows & Legacy Programs[edit]

  • Calvin University
  • Indiana Wesley Theological Seminary
  • Jackson State University
  • Moody Bible Institute
  • New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Northern Seminary
  • Seattle Pacific University
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville
  • Wake Forest School of Divinity


  • 1972 Ford Foundation Fellow
  • 1978-1980 Distinguished Black American
  • 1980 Mississippi Religious Leadership Man of the Year
  • 1980 Who's Who of International Intellectuals
  • 1980 John W. Dixon Outstanding Community Service Award
  • 1984 Black Business Association of Pasadena/Altadena Humanitarian of the Year
  • 1986 NAACP's Ruby McKnight Williams Award
  • 1988 American Biographical Institute
  • 1988 Personalities of America, 4th ed., Richmond Barthè Historical Society
  • 2005 Mighty Men of Valor Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2008 Jordon Lifetime Achievement Award, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
  • 2010 Mississippi Medal of Service Award
  • 2016 Beautiful are the Feet Award, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference
  • 2016 Spirit of Healing Award, Los Angeles Christian Health Centers
  • 2017 Game Changer Agent Award, The Forge for Families, Houston, TX
  • 2017 For My People Award, Jackson State University
  • 2017 The Gospel Coalition Book Awards Finalist
  • 2018 Brooks Hays Award, Second Baptist Church, Little Rock, AR
  • 2019 Living Legend Award, New Hope Baptist Church, Jackson, MS
  • 2019 Chuck Colson Conviction & Courage Award, Biola University
  • 2019 Abraham Kuyper Prize, Calvin College
  • 2019 Emma Elzy Award, The United Methodist Church, MS
  • 2019 John & Vera Mae Perkins Co-Laborer with Christ Award, Indiana Wesley Seminary
  • 2020 World Magazine's Daniel of the Year[21]


  • Let Justice Roll Down. Regal Books, 1976 ISBN 978-0-8307-4307-0.
  • A Quiet Revolution: The Christian Response to Human Need, a Strategy for Today. Word Books, 1976. ISBN 978-0-87680-793-4.
  • With Justice for All. Regal Books, 1982 ISBN 978-0-8307-0754-6.
  • Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development. Baker Books, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8010-7122-5.
  • He's My Brother: Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation. Baker Books, 1994. ISBN 978-0-8007-9214-5.
  • Resurrecting Hope. Regal, 1995. ISBN 978-0-8307-1810-8.
  • Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right. Baker Books, 1996 ISBN 978-0-8010-5463-1.
  • Linking Arms, Linking Lives: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities. Baker Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8010-7083-9.
  • Follow Me to Freedom: Leading as an Ordinary Radical. Regal Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8307-5120-4.
  • Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community. Intervarsity Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8308-3453-2.
  • Leadership Revolution: Developing the Vision & Practice of Freedom & Justice. Regal, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8010-1817-6
  • Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development. Intervarsity Press, 2013 ISBN 978-0-8308-3756-4.
  • Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win. Baker Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0-8010-0778-1.
  • One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race. Moody Publishers, 2018. ISBN 978-0-8024-1801-2.
  • He Calls Me Friend: The Healing Power of Friendship in a Lonely World. Moody Publishers, 2019. ISBN 978-0-8024-1936-1.
  • Count It All Joy: The Ridiculous Paradox of Suffering. Moody Publishers, 2021. ISBN 978-0-8024-2175-3.
  • Go and Do: Nine Axioms on Peacemaking and Transformation From the Life of John Perkins, 2022. ISBN 978-1-7252-9936-8.


  1. ^ a b c d Perkins, John, Let Justice Roll Down. Regal Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8307-4307-0
  2. ^ a b c d ""John M. Perkins in Conversation with Charles Marsh: Let Justice Roll Down," (.pdf transcript), Project on Lived Theology, 2009". Archived from the original on 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  3. ^ "Perkins, John M".
  4. ^, 2008 Archived 2010-12-27 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c "Biography of John Perkins", Billy Graham Archive, Wheaton College, IL". Archived from the original on 2014-07-29. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  6. ^ a b c d e f The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (New York: Baker Books, 2005)
  7. ^ Mobilizing for the Common Good, eds Peter Slade, Charles Marsh, and Peter Heltzel (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013)
  8. ^ Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From The Civil Rights Movement to Today (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 168-169.
  9. ^ Dr. John Perkins - Mississippi Civil Rights Project.
  10. ^ 455 F.2d 7, Reverend John M. PERKINS et al., Petitioners-Appellants v.STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, Respondent-Appellee. No. 30410. United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Jan. 14, 1972.
  11. ^ A Quiet Revolution: the Christian response to human need, a strategy for today, (Word Books, 1976)
  12. ^ "What is CCDA all about?" - CCDA website
  13. ^ says, Answering the Call: a Lesson in Resilience (2011-09-14). "CCDA's Beginnings » Christian Community Development Association". Christian Community Development Association. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  14. ^ Christianity Today, December 7, 1998 [1]
  15. ^ Jessica Kinnison, "Radical Faith: The Revolution of John Perkins", Jackson Free Press, December 17, 2008.
  16. ^ "Staff". The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation. 8 February 2016. Archived from the original on 12 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Welcome to our blog!". The John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  18. ^ The John M. Perkins Leadership Fellows at Calvin College official website.
  19. ^ "About the John Perkins Center at SPU" - official website
  20. ^ "The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)" song lyrics.
  21. ^ Olasky, Marvin. "After an election, reconciliation?". World Magazine. World News Group. Retrieved December 3, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mobilizing for the Common Good: The Lived Theology of John M. Perkins, eds. Peter Slade, Charles Marsh, and Peter Heltzel (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2013). ISBN 978-1-61703-859-4
  • Charles Marsh, "Unfinished Business: John Perkins and the Radical Roots of Faith-Based Community Building", in The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today, (New York: Baker Books, 2005) 153-188. ISBN 978-0465044160

External links[edit]