John
M.
Perkins
Civil Rights Legend
Counselor to Six Presidents
Community Development Leader
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Dr. Perkins’ final manifesto
Find Your Purpose. Find Your People. Find Your Joy.
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1930
John is born in Mississippi.
John Perkins was born during the height of Jim Crow and the Great Depression to a sharecropping and bootlegging family. John’s exact birth date is unknown.
1931
John's mother dies of malnutrition.
John’s mother dies of pellagra as she gives him her last strength. John’s grandmother becomes his primary caretaker.
1939
He drops out of 3rd grade at Greenwood Elementary.
1946
Brother Clyde is killed by police after he returns from WWII. John escapes to California.
“Many African American veterans were determined to fight for their own freedom and equality, and veterans like Hosea Williams and Medgar Evers played central roles in what became the civil rights movement. The effort to suppress that potential leadership made Black veterans targets, and many suffered brutal violence for protesting mistreatment or simply wearing their military uniforms.”
Equal Justice Initiative
1950
Organizes Workers into Union at California Foundry.
John gets his first taste of the power of collective action. His efforts to organize the workers secures better pay and better rights for all. This success under the threat of violence foreshadows his later work in the Civil Rights Movement.
1951
Marries Vera Mae Buckley and is drafted into the Korean war. John serves in Okinawa, Japan for three years.
John and Vera Mae celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2021.
1957
John becomes a Christian.
Spencer comes home from Vacation Bible School singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children, All The Children of the World.”  John believes in the Good News of Jesus.
1958
John is ordained as a Baptist minister.
He starts his lifelong pursuit of teaching from the Bible.
1960
John returns to Mendenhall, Mississippi.
John remembers his childhood in Mississippi and how he never heard of Jesus’ love for black children like him.  He returns to bring the Good News to all people in Mendenhall.
1961
John establishes Mendenhall Ministries.
In 12 years, John Perkins helped start a day-care center, youth program, church, cooperative farm, thrift store, housing repair ministry, a health center, and an adult education program. His wife, Vera Mae started the first Head Start Program in Mississippi.
1965
John organizes a voter registration drive in Simpson County.
John becomes engaged with the Civil Rights Movement, becoming a leading voice for political and social justice within Simpson County.
1968
John experiences the kibbutz community in Israel.
The Israeli kibbutz was a cooperative, communal society. First formed in 1909, these communities thrived as Jews were forced to flee from anti-Semitic violence in Europe. John saw the kibbutz as a potential model for community renewal.
1969
John testifies before the McGovern Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.
John is selected to testify about the effect of hunger on his childhood.  His testimony leads to the WIC program. It is estimated that the program safeguards the health of 8.25 million women, infants and children every month.
Christmas 1969
John becomes the leader of Mendenhall boycott.
White retailers in Mendenhall profited from the business of black patrons, yet refused to hire black workers. John organized a boycott of white retailers during the Christmas season of 1969.  This boycott intensified tensions with the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
1970
John is tortured in a Brandon jail while trying to bail out several students.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol arrested several Tougaloo students participating in the boycott on false charges and held them in jail in nearby Brandon county.  When John went to bail them out, the officers detained him and brutally beat him for hours until Vera Mae could get him released. John suffered a heart attack and had ⅔ of his stomach removed due to ulcers.
1972
The Perkins family moves to Jackson, Mississippi.
As he recovered from the beating in Brandon, community leaders feared for John’s safety in Mendenhall.  Seeing an opportunity to mentor the students of Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, the Perkins family moves to Jackson, MS.
1976
John releases the book Let Justice Roll Down
The book is a gripping portrayal of what happens when faith thrusts a person into the midst of a struggle against racism, oppression, and injustice. It is about the costs of discipleship--the jailings, the floggings, the despair, the sacrifice. And it is about the transforming work of faith that allowed John to respond to such overwhelming indignities with miraculous compassion, vision, and hope.
1978
John befriends a former KKK bomber named Tommy Tarrants.
Tommy Tarrants spent eight years in prison for the attempted bombing of a Jewish leader in Mississippi. Claiming conversion to Christianity in prison, many black leaders remained skeptical of his intentions. John meets him while speaking at Geneva College and after hearing his testimony to a group of black students, befriends and welcomes him. Thomas Tarrants would serve as President of the C.S. Lewis Institute for 12 years.
1979
John becomes a religious advisor to President Jimmy Carter.
This began John’s influence at the highest levels of government within the United States and abroad.  Jimmy Carter assembled a task force of religious advisors to meet with various departments in government to achieve desegregation and John became the leader. He advised the next five U.S. Presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
1980
John receives his first honorary doctorate from Wheaton College.
Wheaton College is the first of sixteen honorary doctorates received by Dr. John M. Perkins.  He has received doctorates from two formerly segregated schools, Belhaven University and Virginia University of Lynchburg, as well as Covenant College, Geneva College, Gordon College, Huntington University, King University, Millsaps College, North Park University, Northern Seminary, Nyack College, Seattle Pacific University, Spring Arbor University, Taylor University, Whitworth University.
1982
John returns to California and founds the John M. Perkins Foundation.
John feels his presence in Mississippi is stunting the growth of other leaders. He creates the Foundation to promote the principles of Christian community development and reconciliation as ordinary Christians with heroic faith take action with strong commitments to their community.
1983
John serves on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals.
On March 8, 1983, the NAE invited President Reagan to speak. That invitation turned into the infamous “Evil Empire” speech which framed the Cold War as a battle between good and evil.
1984
The Harambee Christian Family Center Founded
Located in one of the highest crime neighborhoods of California, Harambee runs numerous programs including after-school tutoring, Good News Bible Clubs, an award-winning technology center, summer day camps, youth internship programs, and a college scholarship program.
1986
John receives the NAACP’s Ruby McKnight Williams Award.
1989
John founds Christian Community Development Association on the principles of the Three R’s: relocation, redistribution, reconciliation.
John Perkins called together a group of Christian leaders from across America that was bonded by one significant commitment-expressing the love of Christ in America's poor communities, not at arm’s length, but at the grass-roots level. An association was formed and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) held its first annual conference in Chicago in 1989. CCDA has grown from 37 founding members to 6,800 individuals and 600 churches, ministries, institutions and businesses in more than 100 cities and townships across the country.
1992
John begins publishing Urban Family Magazine with a circulation of 35,000
John began publishing URBAN FAMILY magazine in response to the breakdown of the urban family, the breakdown of the community, and the increasing violence within the inner city. The mission of URBAN FAMILY is to be a voice of hope and progress, offering solutions that emphasize responsibility, affirm dignity, build moral character, and encourage reconciliation. The circulation quickly rose from 13,000 to 35,000 nationally.
1998
John's son Spencer dies suddenly. He founds the Spencer Perkins Center.
The Spencer Perkins Center serves the needs of under-resourced children and families in West Jackson, MS. Through the Perkins Center, he and his staff developed youth programs such as After-School Program, Summer Enrichment Camp, High School and College Internship Program, Good News Bible Club, the T.A.L.K.S. Mentoring Program, and Antioch Discipleship Community for college students. The Perkins Center also developed a housing ministry called Zechariah 8 which provides affordable housing to low-to moderate-income families, with a focus on single mothers.
2004
Seattle Pacific University opens the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.
2009
Switchfoot releases song “The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)”
“The static comes alive
Beneath the broken skies
John Perkins said it right
Love is the final fight”
2010
John wins the Mississippi Medal of Service Award.
2012
Calvin College begins the John M. Perkins Leadership Fellows Program
2018
One Blood is published.
He Calls Me Friend
Dr. John M. Perkins publishes his manifesto to the church on race and love.
2019
He Calls Me Friend is published.
At the release of One Blood, a college student asked Dr. Perkins how to continue his legacy into the next generation.  Perkins responded, “Become friends with God, and be friends to each other.”  This statement became the launching point for He Calls Me Friend.
WORLD's annual Daniel of the Year award is bestowed on a person or persons who exhibit bravery in defense of God's authority by helping those who are being persecuted.
2021
Count It All Joy is published.
Final book of Dr. John M. Perkins manifesto trilogy.  He writes, “Suffering can be a painful companion in life, but it can also be a powerful teacher.  I've learned that true joy is formed in the crucible of suffering. And I want you to share this joy that I have found.”
2021
One Life Well Lived, a master class on living with purpose and passion from Dr. John M. Perkins is released with the Moody Bible Institute.
1930
2021
1930
In another part of the world, The Graf Zeppelin airship makes its first transatlantic voyage.
1947
In New York, Jackie Robinson plays his first game for the Dodgers, breaking the color barrier.
1951
The Korean War pushes past the 38th parallel.
1963
John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas Texas.
1964
The Civil Rights Act is signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
1965
Malcolm X is assassinated in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom.
1968
Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
1969
Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.
1976
Black History Month is established.
1980
The United States attempt to rescue Iranian hostages fails.
1983
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is established.
1986
The Challenger explosion.
1989
Tiananmen Square Massacre
1995
The OJ Simpson Trial
2005
Rosa Parks dies at age 92