The Vernon Johns Story (1994 Full Movie).

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Saturday, January 3rd, 2015. NYC.

The Vernon Johns Story (1994 Full Movie)

The Vernon Johns Story is the inspirational saga of the man who preceded Martin Luther King Jr. as pastor of a Montgomery, Alabama Baptist Church. Described as “one of God’s most brilliant preachers,” Johns campaigned tirelessly for Civil Rights long before the cudgel was taken up by the “mainstream.” Before leaving his post, Johns passed the torch to young Reverend King, who is but a minor character in this positive, uplifting TV-movie. James Earl Jones curbs his tendency to ham it up as Vernon Johns, delivering an understated and most effective performance.

Vernon Johns:
Vernon Johns (April 22, 1892 — June 11, 1965) was an American minister and civil rights leader who was active in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans from the 1920s.

He is considered by some as the father of the American Civil Rights Movement, having laid the foundation on which Martin Luther King, Jr. and others would build. He was Dr. King’s predecessor as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1947 to 1952, and a mentor of Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker, and many others in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


Johns was born in Darlington Heights, Prince Edward County, Virginia, the grandson of slaves. He graduated from Oberlin Seminary in 1918 and attended the University of Chicago’s graduate school of theology. He died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C. on June 11, 1965 at age 73.

In Prince Edward County, Virginia, the Robert Moton School was the scene of a student strike for better conditions in 1951. One student leader, Barbara Rose Johns was the niece of Vernon Johns. Though he was in Montgomery at the time of the student strike, many report that he was influential in giving advice. His wife was a former teacher in the Robert Moton High School, and he still had numerous familial ties in the community of Farmville and the surrounding area. The Johns family knew the social politics of the area. The local NAACP chapter saw an opportunity to push for change and helped the students continue the fight after the ten day strike was over. This case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, would be combined into others and brought to the U.S. Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education.

David Anderson Elementary School in Petersburg, Virginia, was renamed ‘Vernon Johns Middle School’ several years ago. In 2009 it became the junior high school for the city school system.

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The Vernon Johns Story (1994 Full Movie).
The Vernon Johns Story (1994 Full Movie).

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