John Perkins (1930- ), community organizer and social and racial peacemaker, was born into a sharecropper’s family in New Hebron, Mississippi. Enduring economic and racial hardship in Mississippi, his relatives sent him to California. After serving in the military during World War II, Perkins returned to Pasadena where he experienced a conversion during a Sunday-school class with his son in 1957. He subsequently became a missionary--employing what he described as a holistic mission--to young black individuals, and returned to Mississippi to help those oppressed by Jim Crow laws.
Perkins’s winsome personality and connections with white evangelicals allowed him to gain a significant amount of emotional and financial support from both white evangelicals and the black community for his organization, the Voice of Calvary. With this support Perkins employed his holistic mission, which centered on the development of individuals’ inner spiritual and behavioral needs together with their outer material needs. Perkins is perhaps best known for his model of Christian community development. Employing this model he created the Southern Cooperative Development Fund which provided finances and leadership to a number of communities in Mississippi, then to communities in other states and finally abroad. In 1983 this same model was used to create the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development which provides leadership to hundreds of faith-based community development organizations.
For further reading see S.E. Berk, A Time to Heal: John Perkins, Community Development and Racial Reconciliation (Baker, 1997).