William Barber II

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William Barber II
William Barber at Moral Mondays rally.jpg
Barber (right) speaking at a Moral Mondays rally in 2013
Born (1963-08-30) August 30, 1963 (age 56)
Alma mater
OccupationProtestant minister, activist, Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

Rev. William J. Barber II (born August 30, 1963) is an American Protestant minister and political activist. He is a member of the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the chair of its Legislative Political Action Committee. Since 2006, he has been president of the NAACP's North Carolina state chapter, the largest in the Southern United States and the second-largest in the country.[1] Barber has served as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina since 1993.

Education and family[edit]

Barber was born in Indianapolis to Eleanor Barber and William J. Barber, Sr,[2] who then moved their young family to Washington County, North Carolina to participate in the desegregation of the public school system there: his mother as a secretary/office manager, his father as a physics teacher, and young Barber as a kindergarten student.[3]

Barber was elected president of the local NAACP youth council in 1978, at age 15.[4] At 17, he became student body president of his high school, the first president to serve the integrated school for an entire year, breaking the previous tradition of alternating a black president & white president for each semester.[3] He then enrolled at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and became student government president at age 19. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from NCCU, cum laude; a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University; and a doctorate from Drew University with a concentration in public policy and pastoral care.[5]

In 1984, he met a first-year NCCU student, Rebecca McLean, at a march in support of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign; they married three years later.[4]


Beginning in April 2013, Barber led regular "Moral Mondays" civil-rights protests in North Carolina's state capital, Raleigh.[6] The Wall Street Journal credited Barber's NAACP chapter with forming a coalition in 2007 named Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly, composed of 93 North Carolina advocacy groups. "With this changing demographic, we had to operate in coalition," Barber was quoted as saying.[7] Historian and professor Timothy Tyson named Barber, "the most important progressive political leader in this state in generations," saying that he "built a statewide interracial fusion political coalition that has not been seriously attempted since 1900."[8] An article in the Michigan State Law Review,[9] "Confronting Race: How a Confluence of Social Movements Convinced North Carolina to Go where the McCleskey Court Wouldn't" credits him with bringing together a statewide political coalition. He, "has become as well known [in North Carolina] as [Governor] Pat McCrory and Republican leaders of the House and Senate," according to a 2013 Huffington Post profile of him.[10] He traveled with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous to meet with Georgia prison officials.[11]

In 2014, he founded Repairers of the Breach, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization "formed to educate and train religious and other leaders of faith who will pursue policies and organizational strategies for the good of the whole and to educate the public about connections between shared religious faith."[12]

In 2016, he delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention; the address was described as rousing and was well-received.[13][14][15]

On May 30, 2017, Barber was arrested after refusing to leave the North Carolina State Legislative Building during a protest over health care legislation. The following month, a state magistrate banned Barber and the other protesters from entering the Legislative Building. Barber and his lawyers contend that the ban is unconstitutional, because the state constitution guarantees citizens the right to assemble to communicate with their legislators.[16]

In May 2017 Barber announced he would step down from the state NAACP presidency to lead "a new 'Poor People's Campaign'",[17] named Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival in honour of the original 1968 campaign founded by Martin Luther King.


Barber was awarded the 2006 Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Esq. Award for legal activism, the highest award in the NAACP for legal redress for advocacy, he was the 2008 recipient of the Thalheimer Award for most programmatic NAACP State Conference, and in 2010 he won the National NAACP Kelly M. Alexander Humanitarian Award.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2009—a North Carolina citizenship award presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state.

In 2017, Barber was awarded an honorary doctorate from Drew University, his alma mater, and also delivered the university's sesquicentennial address at commencement exercises. Barber was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Occidental College preceding his speech (which was also livestreamed) to students, alumni, and community members in Thorne Hall.

In 2018, Barber was named a MacArthur Fellow (popularly known as the "Genius Grant") for "building broad-based fusion coalitions as part of a moral movement to confront racial and economic inequality." [18]


  • Preaching Through Unexpected Pain (self-published)
  • Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation (Chalice Press, 2014, ISBN 0827244940).[19]
  • The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement (Beacon Press, 2016, ISBN 0807083607)[20]
  • Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing (Beacon Press, 2018, ISBN 9780807025604)[21]


  1. ^ "NAACP Board Member: Dr. William Barber". NAACP. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  2. ^ "North Carolina Disciples Pastor Chosen For National NAACP Board". Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). March 11, 2009. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hayes, Chris (16 Jul 2019). "Building a Movement with Rev. Dr. William Barber II". Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes (Podcast). NBC News. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  4. ^ a b Cobb, Jelani (May 14, 2018). "William Barber Takes on Poverty and Race in the Age of Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 Aug 2019.
  5. ^ Dreier, Peter (October 24, 2013). "Activists to Watch: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber". Bill Moyers & Company. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  6. ^ Rab, Lisa (14 April 2014). "Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays". Mother Jones. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  7. ^ Dougherty, Conor (11 June 2010). "U.S. Nears Racial Milestone". The Wall Street Journal. p. A3. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  8. ^ Wiggins, Lori (January 1, 2011). "Rev. William Barber: The Gospel Truth". The Crisis. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Barbara; Grosso, Catherine M. (2011-07-12). "Confronting Race: How a Confluence of Social Movements Convinced North Carolina To Go Where the McCleskey Court Wouldn't" (PDF). Michigan State Law Review. 2011: 463–504. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  10. ^ Shimron, Yonat (June 25, 2013). "Rev. William Barber II: Moral Monday Leader In North Carolina Is Pastor, NAACP Chapter President". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  11. ^ "President Jealous and NAACP Leaders Visit John McNeil". NAACP. Sep 10, 2012. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  12. ^ "Guidestar Profile". Guidestar. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  13. ^ "The Rev. William Barber dropped the mic". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  14. ^ "Americans Who'd Never Heard of Reverend William Barber II Won't Be Able to Forget Him After Last Night". The Nation. 2016-07-28. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  15. ^ "Rev. William Barber rattles the windows and shakes the walls at the DNC". NBC News. 2016-07-28. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  16. ^ "NAACP's Rev. Barber banned from Legislative Building". WNCT. June 17, 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  17. ^ McClain, Dani (May 19, 2017). "The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK's Poor People's Campaign Back to Life". The Nation. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "William J. Barber II - MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation by Rev. William J. Barber II with Barbara Zelter". Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  20. ^ Laarman, Peter (2016-01-14). "A Third Reconstruction? Rev. William Barber Lifts the Trumpet". Religion Dispatches. USC Annenberg. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  21. ^ "Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 2019-08-05.

Further reading[edit]

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