News and Media
Sep. 04, 2012
Jackie Hughes '76
A 33-minute video about Vernon Johns, an Oberlin alumnus who was a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, was recently shared with me. I was impressed by the video, directed by Daniel Schloss '07 and commissioned by the Office of Admissions, and thought it should be shared with the alumni community. I was particularly pleased to see that the video was filmed from a student's perspective. During one of my visits to campus, I had the privilege of meeting Solomon Turner '11, who is featured in the film.
Vernon Johns graduated from Oberlin in 1918. He was born in 1892 in Virginia. His family did not have enough money to send him to school, so he was primarily self-taught. He taught himself Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and German. Johns came to Oberlin College, where he was highly respected by his classmates and was chosen to give the annual student oration at the Memorial Arch prior to his graduation.
Johns became a traveling preacher and, in 1947, he found his way to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he often spoke of racial issues and called for his congregation to resist unfair treatment. He was a man ahead of his time. Two years after his resignation from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where members of the congregation were uncomfortable with his bold and critical messages aimed at both black and white community members in Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the church's preacher.
Each spring, the Office of Admissions organizes a fly-in program for admitted students of color named the Vernon Johns Program to honor his legacy. They offer students the opportunity to see campus, interact with current students, and experience Oberlin for themselves.
On April 20, 2012, during the 23rd Annual Vernon Johns Program, members of the Johns family came to Oberlin College and visited the archives to view documents the college has on file for Vernon Johns. The family has many other documents and photos of Johns in its possession and has expressed an interest in donating some of the materials to the college. At the evening event they presented the college with two framed photos of Vernon Johns that will be permanently displayed in the Afrikan Heritage House.
If you have questions about the Vernon Johns Program, contact Tom Abeyta, senior associate director of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you enjoy the video and can share in Oberlin's pride of a truly great alumnus.
Jackie Hughes '76
President, Oberlin Alumni Association