Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Architect, Forward Together Moral Movement

 revbarber_headshot

  • Pastor Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Goldsboro
  • President of N.C. Conference of 100 adult, youth and student NAACP
  • Branches in the largest State Conference in the South
  • Architect of the Moral Monday-Forward Together Movement.
  • Convener of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Coalition
  • Chair of the Political Action Committee of the National NAACP Board

Rev. Dr. Barber was born in Indianapolis two days after the 1963 March on Washington. His parents moved him from Indiana’s integrated kindergarten to the segregated kindergarten in his father’s home in Washington County, a conscious act to desegregate NC’s dual school systems. His father was one of the first black teachers of physics, and his mother was the first black office manager in a Washington County high school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration at NC Central University, his master’s from Duke University and his doctorate from Drew University in public policy and pastoral care. 

Civil Rights and Progressive Movement-Building:  In 2005, Rev. Dr. Barber was elected President of the NC NAACP. He quickly began the difficult job of transforming the NAACP into one of the largest membership-based progressive organizations in the state. In 2006, he gathered leaders of 16 progressive NC organizations to hammer out a 14-Point People’s Agenda; in February 2007, he convened the first Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Peoples Assembly to approve the Agenda and post it in front of the NC General Assembly on Jones Street. The original sweet 16 has now grown to over 200 partners of all races, creeds, faiths, political affiliations, classes, sexualities and locations. For more than eight years, under Dr. Barber’s leadership, the Forward Together Moral Movement continued to effectively fight with (and sometimes against) Democratic Party leaders in the General Assembly to win key victories for the people of North Carolina, including, for example Same-Day Registration, the Racial Justice Act and cross-racial unity in the marriage equality fight.

Moral Mondays: In the face of regressive extremism, Dr. Barber, the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement was ready to challenge the newly-arisen extremism that wanted to take North Carolina backwards.

In late April 2013, Dr. Barber, along with 16 other ministers and activists, peacefully petitioned their representatives on Jones Street to stop the regressive attack. The General Assembly leaders had their police arrest the peaceful moral witnesses. Almost twice as many witnesses came the next Monday, and they too were thrown in jail. For 12 Mondays, the number of arrests grew and the number of supporters who came to sing, pray and cheer them on grew. By the end of the legislative session, 944 people had been arrested and about 25,000 people had participated in the Moral Mondays. Upwards of 80,000 people participated in the eighth HKonJ – Moral March on Raleigh in early 2014, the largest civil rights march ever in the South. The movement has held more than 117 events since 2013 in NC alone. By June 2014 – after 62 straight weeks of mobilizing – the number of arrestees reached 1,004, the most ever in the history of the country arrested for civil disobedience at a state legislature.

The movement in North Carolina is about the moral fabric of our society, and we are called by a deeply moral and constitutional vision of what is possible. We look at public policy through a moral lens of justice for all and through the constitutional principle of governing for the good of the whole. Our work points out how these extremist policies are morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane.

Agenda of the movement is

1) Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability by fighting for employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a green economy, labor rights, affordable housing, targeted empowerment zones, strong safety net services for the poor, fair policies for immigrants, infrastructure development and fair tax reform.

2) Educational equality by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutional, diverse public education as well as access to community colleges and universities and by securing equitable funding for minority colleges and universities.

3) Healthcare for all by ensuring access to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and by providing environmental protection.

4) Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system and providing equal protection under the law for black, brown and poor white people.

5) Protect and expand voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

Rev. Dr. Barber practices what he preaches: He led the Greenleaf Christian congregation in analyzing and then buying the two-mile circle surrounding the church as well as in investing $1.5 million into building more than 60 homes for low-income families, a 41-unit senior citizens’ residence, a 90-student pre-school, an academic after-school, a computer lab for youth and adults, an HIV information and testing center and a Second Chance program for training formerly incarcerated men and women in the culinary arts, landscaping and technical jobs.

Honors, (a small number mentioned)

  • Honorary doctorate – North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
  • Featured on several MSNBC talk shows, including the “Melissa Harris Perry Show,” “All in with Chris Hayes” and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”
  • 2013 Person of Year for several NC news outlets
  • the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award – Campaign for America’s Future
  • Named first of the “14 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014” by the Center for American Progress
  • The Martin Luther King Award – the National Education Association.
  • Rev Barber was awarded and named amongst the top 100 grassroots leaders in the nation for 2013 from NBC’s Grio Blog.
  • Selected to serve as a MIT CoLab Mel King Fellowship
  • Invited to preach a Moral Message to the Nation at the Historic Riverside Church, Harlem NY