- NAME: Vernon Johns
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Pastor
- BIRTH DATE: April 22, 1892
- DEATH DATE: April 11, 1965
- Did You Know?: In 1926, Vernon Johns became the first African-American religious leader to have a sermon published in the book Best Sermons.
- EDUCATION: Boydton Institute, Oberlin College, Virginia Theological Seminary, University of Chicago
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Darlington Heights (Prince Edward County), Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Washington, D.C.
- Full Name: Vernon Neapolitan Johns
- AKA: Vernon Johns
Best Known For
A brilliant thinker, Vernon Johns was a pastor and activist who was the predecessor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
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Johns continued with his farm work and later directed the Maryland Baptist Center and helmed Second Century Magazine in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation. Prominent civil rights leaders like King and Ralph D. Abernathy also looked to Johns for sustenance and guidance. He died on April 11, 1965, in Washington,
Historian Ralph E. Luker has written much about Johns's life and work, and Taylor Branch profiled Johns in his book Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 (1988). Actor James Earl Jones also portrayed Johns in a notable 1994 television film, The Road to Freedom.
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Browse our collection of African-American civil rights activists who were pioneers in their industries, including Vernon Johns, Charles H. Houston, Madam C.J. Walker and John Mercer Langston. Explore full biographies, photo galleries, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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