Q&A with Dr. John M. Perkins

Civil Rights Activist, Teacher, and Author


Where did you grow up?

In a little rural area for the first 16 years of my life, New Hebron, Mississippi. That's where I grew up. My family worked on a plantation and did sharecropping there. It was a few miles from Jackson, MS.

When you were a young boy, what did you think you'd be when you grew up?

My longing was to leave Mississippi. I used to tell my brother, I would talk about leaving because we would see those Western movies. And I said, "I wanna go West." I wanted to leave Mississippi because of the racism and bigotry and hatred.

We were sharecroppers, bootleggers, gamblers. I thought if you would translate that into [modern]-day language, that I would become a merchandiser. You know, I would've been a salesman. But, we didn't think much about that because there wasn't no kind of opportunities for blacks. [We] couldn't sit where we wanted to sit. We couldn't eat where we wanted to eat. And, we went to school three months a year. That's why we really didn't think about it.

How did you meet your wife, Vera Mae?

I met her at a church; when I saw her, that was the end of that. She was the most beautiful black woman I ever put my eyes on. I fell in love with her, and I got her, and I've had her now for almost 67 years.

How did you come to faith in Jesus?

When we moved to California, and I started my family, after I got out of service during the Korean War. There was a group of people that were doing Bible clubs in the home; they called them "Good News Club" for the children. My 3-year-old boy went to one of those. And then they got him into Sunday school. And then he invited me to go to Sunday school. It was through that experience I came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life.

Is there a bible verse that you hold near and dear to your heart?

I think my most precious Bible verse came at the early part of my conversion. That the Christian life is the outliving of the in-living Christ, and that was Galatians 2:20. Where he said, "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith, and the grace, of the Son of God who loves me and gave himself for me." And so, that is my encouraging verse. That's the verse that stops me from living totally into myself. I think that's a big deal today. I think people are addicted to themselves. And I think other addictions go along with that.

Why did you choose to dedicate the book the way you did?

I thought of my great-grandchildren. My grandchildren are already pretty grown, but they have been scattered. I have a grandson; I was talking to him today. He doesn't know me, and I don't know him. He's now about 33, and we made ourselves a commitment with the rest of the time I have that I really want to get to know him. So, I was thinking about my grandchildren, my heritage. They'll see their name in that book, and they'll say, "Grandpa was thinking of us."

This edition of Moody Publishing’s The Green Room was transcribed from a phone interview with John Perkins.

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