Billy Graham Center

Papers of John Perkins - Collection 367

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of John Perkins

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Audio Tapes, Books and Video Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes
    Video Tapes

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)


Transcript 1

Click to listen to an excerpt from this interview (begins on T1 and continues on T2). Or click to listen to the entire T1 recording. Click to visit the exhibit Web page featuring this and other excerpts with transcripts, visuals and audio links.

Transcript 2

Click to listen to the entire T2 recording.

Transcript 3

Click to listen to the entire T3 recording.

Brief Description.
Interview with Perkins, founder and President Emeritus of Voice of Calvary Ministries (VOCM). Subjects covered include: Perkins' childhood in rural Mississippi, his conversion, the formation of VOCM, its program and significant events and individuals in its history, Perkins' philosophy of wholistic 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 black community. Also videotapes, JOHN PERKINS: 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 Innerancy'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.

Collection 367 [June 24, 2010]
Perkins, John; 1930-
Papers; 1983, 1987, 1995


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.



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.

  • Scope & Content

    The interview with Dr. Perkins was conducted by Paul A. Ericksen at the Voice of Calvary headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 19, 1987. The approximate time period of the events covered in the interview is: T1, 1935-1971; T2, 1962-1984; T3, 1983-1987.

    Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is noted in the margin to the left of the topics discussed. The index is keyed to a cassette copy of the interview, not the reel-to-reel original.

    Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape). Click to listen to the entire recording.
    00:00 Beginning of tape
    00:30 Introduction to interview (June 19, 1987)
    01:15 Recollections of poverty, coldness, and growing up without a father at home; desire to be loved.
    04:00 Growing awareness of the low status of black society; being counseled on how to behave in white company.
    07:15 Submission to whites while exploiting them by selling them alcohol at inflated prices; alcohol sales
    11:45 Family situation growing up with cousins
    12:45 Rebellion against submissiveness and being exploited; striking when underpaid for services or humiliated; social situations with a white family.
    18:30 Typical black family and Perkins' family; impact of welfare system on black families; extended family aspect of Voice of Calvary
    29:20 Impact of Perkins' conversion
    34:00 Reasons for returning to Mississippi; impact of his return
    36:00 Community's perception of Perkins as a Bible teacher.
    38:00 Excitement of fear in returning to New Hebron in 1960
    41:00 Intent to win people to Christ, not build a church
    41:50 Seeing other needs in Mendenhall; expanded ministry in area schools among young people; belief in problem solving
    45:15 End of side 1

    Tape T1 - side 2
    00:00 Beginning of tape
    00:15 Overlap from side 1
    03:30 Problem solving philosophy and examples; emphasis on leadership development
    07:30 Children's response to being involved in school integration; goals and ideas vs. people
    12:45 Passionate dislike for poverty and racism; acceptable risk of violence to achieve goals
    14:15 Self-deficiencies; dislike of losing the total war
    19:45 Impact of surviving mistreatment while in prison
    20:45 Feelings about his beating; process of working through hatred and forgiving his enemies while hospitalized; recognizing his own mistakes and hatred
    24:30 End of tape

    Tape T2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape). Click to listen to the entire recording.
    00:00 Beginning of tape
    00:30 Continuation on process of working through feelings
    02:30 Role of wife in Perkins' ministry
    05:45 Origins of Voice of Calvary: Voice of Calvary Bible Institute, Berean Bible Church; suit against Mississippi; incorporating process and proliferation of corporations; People's Development Incorporated (non-profit) and SUBDUE (for profit)
    12:15 Fund raising and development
    15:45 Robert Archie "R.A." Buckley influence on Voice of Calvary; Buckley's decision-making process
    25:30 Developing structure to spread influence of philosophy of ministry; emphasis on action vs. worship
    30:00 VOC foundational principles; examples of relocation; intentional integration
    33:45 Reconciliation illustrated in appointing white pastor for congregation; expanding church leadership
    37:45 Examples of redistribution; volunteer program
    40:15 First volunteer groups: conflict between radical black group and fundamentalist white group.
    43:45 Wholistic philosophy
    45:00 End of side 1

    Tape T2 - side 2
    00:00 Beginning of tape
    00:15 Overlap from side 1
    04:30 Continuation on VOC philosophy
    06:15 Role as President Emeritus; developments in VOC since passing on leadership
    09:15 Perkins' relationship with Mendenhall Ministries; difficulty of making Mendenhall aspect of ministry self-sufficient; process of healing relationships
    12:45 Preference for open communication
    14:45 1975 Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson; confronting white pastors to heighten awareness; depth of Southern segregation
    22:15 Black/white contentedness with homogeneous groupings
    24:45 End of tape

    Tape 3 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape). Click to listen to the entire recording.
    00:00 Beginning of tape
    01:40 Involvement on President Reagan's Task Force on Hunger; political perceptions; impact and recommendations; funding for bureaucracy vs. needs of individuals
    12:00 Reasons for moving on from Voice of Calvary; identifying next step
    14:15 Ministry in Pasadena: Harambee Christian Family Center; education and business emphasis; Center's achievements and impact on the community
    20:30 End of interview



    The interview and video tape, Cry Justice, in this collection were received from Perkins by the Center 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

    Accession 87-76
    Type of Material: Audio Tapes
    The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE :

    T1 - Interview with John M. Perkins by Paul A. Ericksen. Recorded on June 19, 1987; cassette original transferred to reel-to-reel, one side only, 3-3/4 i.p.s. Approximately 65 minutes (1 hour, 5 minutes).

    T2 - Continuation of T1, one side only. Approximately 65 minutes (1 hour, 5 minutes).

    T3 - Continuation of T1 and T2, one side only. Approximately 20 minutes.


    Accession 88-34
    Type of Material: Books
    The following items are located in the BGC LIBRARY (now Evangelism & Missions Collection of the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections):

    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).


    Accession 87-119, 88-34, 95-67, 95-91
    Type of Material: Video Tapes
    The following items are located in the VIDEO TAPE FILE:

    V1 - "Cry Justice." Overview of Perkins' life, ministry, and principles of community development; and promotional tape for the John M. Perkins Foundation. Featured are interview segments with Chuck Colson, Anthony Evans, Lem Tucker and Artis Fletcher. Subjects covered include economic development, Christian discipleship, Christian education, and vocational training. VHS format, approximately 30 minutes. 2 copies.

    V2 - Part 1 of 3-part series, "Introduction to Christian Community Development." Perkins' lecture, "Going Through Samaria: The Felt Need Concept touches on the subjects of the Church's responsiblity to the poor and indigenous church administration. Sermon text: John 4:1-4, 34-35. VHS format, approximately 45 minutes.

    V3 - Part 2 of "Introduction to Christian Community Development." Perkins' lecture, "The Church's Responsiblity to the Poor: The Wheel of Ministry," touching also on the subjects of the biblical teaching about the church and evangelism, particularly through the headings "the call," "evangelism," and "social action." Sermon text: Matthew 16: 13-18. VHS format, approximately 45 minutes.

    V4 - Part 3 of "Introduction to Christian Community Development." Perkins' lecture "Come Let Us Rebuild the Walls of America: Leadership for Today," touching on developing socially sensitive Christian leaders, based on the model of Nehemiah. Sermon text: Nehemiah 2:17. VHS format, approximately 45 minutes.

    V5 - “The Christian and Biblical Justice.” Lecture given at the International Council on Biblical Innerancy: Congress on the Bible II in November 1982. Perkins’ introduction by Moishe Rosen of Jews for Jesus. Overview of Perkins’ life and ministry, indigenous community development concepts especially as related to Biblical principles. Subjects covered include: indigenous church administration, youth ministry, intentional community living, evangelism in United States urban areas. U-matic format, approximately 45 minutes.

    V6 - “American Agenda.” ABC World News with Peter Jennings, aired April 14, 1995. Overview of Perkins’ ministry in Mississippi. Interviews with John Perkins and Tom Tarrants, III. Story of Tarrants conversion in prison and his racial reconciliation ministry with Perkins. VHS format, approximately 4 minutes.

    Box Folder Folder title
    1 1 Promotional material: "Cry Justice" (videotape); 1987

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    Last Revised: 6/23/06
    Expiration: indefinite