The Rev. William Barber II
Born: Aug. 30, 1963, in Indianapolis
• Since 1993, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro, North Carolina
• Since 2005, NAACP national board member
• Since 2017, president emeritus of the North Carolina NAACP
• Since 2018, cofounder of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
The Rev. William Barber II took his place on the front lines early on.
Born two days after the March on Washington in 1963, his activist parents moved the family from Indiana to North Carolina, where Barber helped desegregate the public schools. Over an illustrious civil rights career, he's broadened the agenda from black and white to more clearly include women, LGBTQ people, children, immigrants, the sick and broader communities of color.
Here he reflects on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement 2.0 and the work yet to be done.
If King were starting out today, what social ills would top his agenda?
Five injustices interlock to keep America from becoming what we hope it to be: poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, a war economy and a distorted moral narrative that tells some people God blesses all of this. That's the work Dr. King would take on because that's the nature of who he was. We who believe in freedom and justice and mercy cannot rest until those goals are attained.
What are your thoughts about the circle of overlap of the work King did and what you do?
Dr. King was a minister in the same tradition as my father, who passed it down to me. It says you must preach good news to the poor.
Poor in Jesus’ day meant those who've been harmed by unjust systems. Throughout American history, elites have held power by pitting people against one another: Tell the white man he's better than the black man or have the plantation owner convince poor whites to fight for a system that keeps them down, too, and you subvert the promise of democracy.
This tactic also misuses religion to demonize immigrants and poor people, while suppressing women. Repairers of the Breach builds fusion coalitions to unite people across lines of division.