Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profiles. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous men alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the pastor, activist, and North Carolina NAACP President, Reverand William Barber II.
Barber was elected president of the NAACP’s youth council at age 15, president of his high school’s student body at 17, and student government president at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) at 19. Barber 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
The Reverend William Barber II has emerged as a leading voice in the struggle for rights for African Americans, the poor, and other marginalized people in the United States, especially in the South. In his former role as president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, Barber led the “Moral Mondays” movement that enlisted a broad coalition of people engaged in human rights struggles.
Barber employed peaceful direct action to confront the state’s Republican legislative leadership and other political powers—initially over voting rights and voter suppression, but ultimately focusing on broader issues of justice for the poor and working class. And while deeply rooted in the language of faith—Barber is a minister with Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in his hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina—he has extended the reach of his “fusion coalition” movement to include other faiths as well as secular, agnostic, and atheist activists. He and his coalition reignited MLK’s final campaign before his assassination in 1968. A new Poor People’s Campaign has been brought to the forefront, thanks to Rev. Barber and countless others working to make a more fair and just society in the age of Trump.
Here is Rev. Barber in his own words about race and poverty in America:
“We not only must deal with those issues. We must deal with race in terms of policies like voter suppression. Policies, for instance — when you deny living wages, 54 percent of African Americans make less than a living wage. So we need a grown-up conversation about race. We need to ask this question, ‘Why is it that in the poorest counties and areas of this country, they continue to elect candidates who are the most adverse to the policies that would help the poor? When in fact, you have 8 million more poor white people than you have black. You have five million more white people than Latinos that are poor.’ We need a grown-up conversation about race and class in this country. And our young people are pushing us to do that.”
Today we honor Rev. William Barber II as our Evolved Man of the Week.