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Collection 367 Papers of John Perkins

Identifier: CN 367

Scope and Contents

Oral history interview, video tapes, and promotional material, relating to the ministry of John Perkins, author, speaker, and founder and President Emeritus of Voice of Calvary Ministries.

Series: Audio Tapes

Oral history interview with John Perkins

Interview with John Perkins in which he describes his childhood in rural Mississippi, his conversion, the formation of VOCM, its program and significant events and individuals in its history, Perkins' philosophy of holistic ministry (integrating evangelism, social action, and community development) and leadership development, racial and social conditions and attitudes in Mississippi among Christians and the general public, his arrest, imprisonment and recovery, the extension of his ministry in Pasadena, his service on President Reagan's Task Force on Hunger, and other aspects of his ministry among the poor and in the African American community.

Dr. Perkins was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen at the Voice of Calvary headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 19, 1987. The time period covered by the interview is 1935-1987.

Series: Video Tapes

Six video tapes, including Cry Justice, touching on Perkins' life and ministry, and the Introduction to Christian Community Development series, featuring Perkins speaking on "The Felt Need Concept," "The Church's Responsibility to the Poor," and "Leadership for Today", a lecture given at the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy’s Congress of the Bible II, The Christian and Biblical Justice and American Agenda, an ABC production of interviews with Perkins and Tom Tarrants, III on racial reconciliation ministry.

Series: Paper Records (Box List)

One folder of promotional materials for Cry Justice.


  • Created: 1983-1995

Conditions Governing Access

The copyright to the video tapes in this collection is retained by Gospel Light Media. There are no other restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Full Name: John Perkins

Birth Date: 1930, on a cotton plantation outside of New Hebron in rural Mississippi


Parents: Maggie, who died before his first birthday, and"Jap"; raised by his father's mother, although he grew up in the extended family of uncles, aunts, and cousins who also sharecropped the land on the plantation, but supplemented its income with a gambling operation and the regional sale of bootleg whiskey.

Siblings: Two brothers and two sisters

Marital Status: Married to Vera Mae Buckley from New Hebron in 1951

Children: Eight, four sons and four daughters

Conversion: 1957

Education: Only continued until the third grade when he dropped out of school


Worked in a foundry, managing a production line, while simultaneously organizing union activities

1951-1953 Drafted into the Army in 1951, later to be stationed in Okinawa

1953 After completing his military service he returned with his wife to California, where he worked as a janitor and later as a welder

1957 Following his conversion he immediately became involved in Christian witness to children with Child Evangelism Fellowship. He was also instrumental in forming a Gospel team for witness in his community, Fisherman's Gospel Crusade, and was involved in outreach to juveniles in prison

1960 Despite initial resistance from his wife, Perkins left California, with his family to return to Mississippi, convinced that he needed to carry on his evangelistic ministry in the community he had been raised in. The Perkinses first returned to New Hebron, where they immediately began summer Bible classes for children. Perkins further established his ministry in the community by holding Bible classes in the public schools in Simpson and surrounding counties. After six months in New Hebron, the Perkinses moved to Mendenhall, Mississippi, where they began holding Bible classes, Sunday school classes and Youth for Christ meetings for young people, and evangelistic tent meetings for the whole community. During the early phase of his ministry in Mendenhall, Perkins made the acquaintance of Robert Archie "R. A." Buckley, who played a significant role in the development of Voice of Calvary Ministries. Facing diverse human social, economic, spiritual, and political problems, the Perkinses began to develop his expressions of more wholistic ministry. At the same time the civil rights movement was expanding, Perkins became more conscious of the human needs in the black community, along with the racism and injustice which sustained them.

1964 Perkins began to articulate his thinking on these issues and became a visible leader in addressing them

Founded Voice of Calvary Bible Institute. In addition to the Bible Institute, Perkins implemented other programs to provide educational opportunities for young people, including a summer tutoring program.

Formed the Berean Bible Church

Established a child care center (became a part of the Head Start program in 1966)

1965 Registered black voters (continued through 1967)

1967 Organized the Federation of Southern Co-ops, afterward developing a housing co-op, farmers' co-op, and co-op store.

1967 In 1967, the Perkinses also led the struggle against segregated schools in Mendenhall, when two of their children became the first black students to enroll in Mendenhall's previously all-white public high school.

1968 Began Voice of Calvary's Leadership Development Program to develop indigenous Christian leaders. Two young men that Perkins worked with, Artis Fletcher and Dolphus Weary, later returned to assume leadership roles in the work in Mendenhall.

1969 As Mendenhall whites responded to the growing black dissatisfaction evidenced in the civil rights movement, Perkins, while jailed, called for a boycott of white Mendenhall businesses during the Christmas shopping season.

1970 In February, heightened tension and frustration in the white community led to the arrest of picket marchers, and then through a police ambush, Perkins himself, by a neighboring county's police. Police brutality brought Perkins close to the point of death before he was released on bond. Working through a series of appeals but unable to be acquitted in the predominantly white judicial system, Perkins finally pled guilty to a reduced charge and was released without fine or jail sentence. The stress related to his mistreatment by the police and the judicial system led to a heart attack and ulcers.

1971 Following a period of hospitalization, he therefore moved to Jackson.

1974 Voice of Calvary commissioned Perkins to begin a new ministry in Jackson, where it had already begun a continuing Christian education ministry among black college students. That same year it transferred its headquarters there to Jackson, while it continued its ministry in Mendenhall. The trend to develop new programs to address human needs continued in Jackson.

1978 Led the SPLITting off of the Mendenhall aspect of the Voice of Calvary Ministries from its work which had become concentrated in Jackson. Dolphus Weary added the president's post to his executive director duties for Voice of Calvary-Mendenhall. In 1981, Artis Fletcher became the president of the renamed The Mendenhall Ministries (TMM), while Weary continued as its director. In 1986, Weary replaced Fletcher as president, and Fletcher focused his attention on pastoring the Mendenhall Bible Church.

1980 Awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Wheaton College

1981 Perkins, while retaining the title President Emeritus, handed over the executive leadership of Voice of Calvary to Lem Tucker

1982 Perkins relocated with his wife in Pasadena, California, where he established the Harambee Christian Family Center and John Perkins Foundation

1983-1984 Served on President Reagan's Task Force on Hunger

Other significant information:

Left Mississippi for California in 1947 after his brother was killed by a New Hebron policeman Perkins articulated his thinking about evangelism and social issues through the concepts "relocation," "reconciliation," and "redistribution." He gave the widest circulation to these ideas by speaking throughout the country and in writing three books, Let Justice Roll Down, A Quiet Revolution, and With Justice For All.


1 box

3 Audio Tapes

6 Video Tapes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The interview and video Cry Justice were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives from John Perkins in June and September 1987. The Introduction to Christian Community Development video tape series was received from Gospel Light Publications in April 1988. The Christian and Biblical Justice as well as American Agenda were received from Perkins in 1995.

Accession 87-76, 87-119, 88-34

October 14, 1988

Paul A. Ericksen

K. Elwell

J. Nasgowitz

Accession 95-67, 95-91

June 11, 2010

Noel Collins Pfeifer

Related Materials

The following items are located in the Evangelism & Missions Collection of Buswell Library.

Aeschliman, Gordon. John Perkins: Land Where My Father Died (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1987).

Perkins, John. Let Justice Roll Down (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1976).

Perkins, John. With Justice For All (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1982).

Collection 367 Papers of John Perkins
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US