October 2018 – The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II T’03, a nationally recognized advocate for social justice, earned a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for his efforts to confront racial and economic inequalities.
Barber, who has a doctor of ministry degree from Drew Theological School, is co-director of the Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of the 1968 movement started by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The campaign works to combat racism, poverty and ecological devastation.
After being named a MacArthur fellow, Barber wrote in a tweet: “My father early on taught me that the only purpose of life is to make a difference in the lives of others & to stand up for what is right & just & full of love & full of compassion.” As for the grant itself, he told the Raleigh News & Observer, “I am thankful and humbled and overwhelmed and more committed than ever.”
Earlier this year, Politico and Unity Magazine also recognized Barber’s national social justice work, with Politico featuring him in its Politico 50 and Unity giving him a Spiritually Guided Social Activism Award.
Barber is the longtime pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. and past president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.
In 2013, he began a series of “Moral Monday” rallies outside of the statehouse in Raleigh, N.C., to protest laws that suppressed voter turnout and cut funding for public education and health care. The following year, he founded a national leadership development organization, Repairers of the Breach, to expand the Moral Monday movement.
Beyond his doctor of ministry, Barber has a master of divinity from Duke University and a bachelor’s from North Carolina Central University. He is the co-author of several books, including Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing, and a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times and The Washington Post. He also spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Drew’s 2017 Commencement and the August 2018 funeral service of Aretha Franklin.