In Memoriam: John W. Perdew

John W. Perdew


Born in Denver, John Perdew dropped out of Harvard to become a field secretary for SNCC, working in Albany, GA, Americus, and Sumter County, GA.  He worked on voter registration and to end segregation of public accommodations with his wife Amanda Bowens Perdew, who he met in Americus.

The Harvard Crimson reported: “With the threat of the death penalty looming over him, John W. Perdew  found himself sitting in a jail cell in Americus, Georgia the summer after his junior year at the College.

It was August of 1963, and Perdew had been arrested while protesting racial segregation with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the organizations that staged sit-ins and freedom rides throughout the South in the 1960s. The charge under which Perdew and three other SNCC activists were being held was “incitement to insurrection”—a capital offense in Georgia at the time.

Perdrew remained in jail for three months, until a three-judge federal court declared the Georgia insurrection law unconstitutional on November 1, 1963, paving the way for his release on bail.”

Perdew worked for SNCC in Georgia for three years, before returning to Harvard to complete his degree.  He returned to Georgia and settled in Atlanta.  He wrote a play, “Education of a Harvard Guy” based on his experiences in Americus and Southwest Georgia. John helped establish a youth group which transformed the lives of countless at risk and underserved youth. John was also part of the task force working to establish the Americus Civil Rights Institute and Interpretive center that will honor the legacy of the Americus Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

John W. Perdew