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Civil Rights Leader Grew Up in Monrovia to Escape Dangers in Alabama

One-Time Monrovian, Rev. John M. Perkins

By Dr. David Campbell

The Rev. John M. Perkins, an important civil rights author, was raised in Monrovia to escape dangers in Alabama that led to the death of his brother, Clyde.

It's hard to summarize the significance of Rev. John M. Perkins' life in the civil rights movement. It can said that his renowned book, Let Justice Roll Down, revived civil rights as a movement in the 1970s when the momentum was waning nationally following the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King. While the nation reeled from this loss, Perkins focused on the role of churches and their members in helping overcome prejudice and encouraged inner city development for the restoration of oppressed lives across the country.

Perkins was born in Hebron, Alabama in 1930. In 1947 his older brother Clyde was killed by a police officer under suspicious circumstances. His family moved him to a safer community in California. In the 1950s census, John M. Perkins lived at 126 S. Canyon Blvd. in Monrovia, California, in a home torn down in the 1970s to make room for a small apartment.  While prejudices existed in Monrovia, too, the community was much safer for John than Hebron.

In Let Justice Roll Down, Perkins describes his conversion to Christianity in 1957, after he served in the Korean War. He went on to lead a civil rights movement with a church focus across the country.  Let Justice Roll Down became a best seller and is standard reading for the Christian church in America as the pendulum swings from social justice and back to evangelicalism every few years. Perkins has led hundreds of thousands of people in justice marches, including one from Los Angeles to San Diego in the early 2000s. Perkins advocates peaceful economic development and inner city health care access as core movements for progress. 

Today, at 93 years of age, Perkins still leads both Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF), both nationally successful movements with thousands of sites and hundreds of thousands of supporters from within the Christian churches of all denominations across the country.

Photo credit: By Priscilla Perkins - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

- Brad Haugaard