A friend told me recently about a movie too few people have seen, a movie about a man too few people have ever heard of. The film, The Story of Vernon Johns, is about a minister who was a civil rights advocate before Martin Luther King Jr. rose to the pulpit, before the hideous death of Emmett Till, and before the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
In 1947 Johns told the well-to-do parishioners of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, that "the nastiest and deadliest sin in the world is the hatred between the races. This innane and foolish hatred threatens to devour civilization like a moth caught in a hell fire."
In a sermon given after the death of a young black boy who was shot in the back for allegedly resisting arrest, Johns told the congregation that murderers act with impunity knowing the black witnesses would not come forward. "By not coming forward," he asserted, "you have become accessories to murder."
After Johns, who advertised the topic of his sermons on a bulletin board outside the church, decided to give a sermon declaring that "It's Safe to Murder Negroes;" after he is threatened with a lynching, after a cross is burned in front of his church, Johns decides to give the sermon anyway.
If you are wondering what happened to this fearlessly courageous man, I think that, like me, you will have to watch the movie, which stars James Earl Jones, and is currently streaming on Appletv. Or if you have Amazon prime, it will direct you to Freevee where you can watch it with commercials. Either way, it is a movie well worth your time!