The Rev. William J. Barber II is stepping down as president of the North Carolina NAACP to help launch a “New Poor People’s Campaign” that will focus on 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Barber, who founded the “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina after the state legislature fell into the heads of ultra-conservative Republicans in 2010, made the announcement Thursday.
“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable,” he said in a statement. “While I am stepping down as president, I will continue working to advance the moral movement here at home as well as support the leadership in our conference to move North Carolina forward together.”
Barber said the New Poor People’s Campaign will honor the 50th anniversary of the original Poor People’s Campaign, launched by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967, a year before he was assassinated in Memphis.
Barber said he will continue to serve as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. He also will remain on the NAACP’s national board and the North Carolina NAACP State Conference.
Barber said the New Poor People’s Campaign will be co-led by the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary, where Barber is a distinguished professor of public theology.
Barber initially will lead trainings and work to organize “poor black, brown and white communities,” he said. In early 2018, he said, progressive activists will lead 40 days of “direct action and civil disobedience in state capitols, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress.”
“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a radical ‘revolution of values’ inviting a divided nation to stand against the evils of militarism, racism, and economic injustice,” he said. “In the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, we are calling for a national moral revival and for fusion coalitions in every state to come together and advance a moral agenda.
Barber, 53, drew widespread acclaim in 2016 when he delivered an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where he said America had developed a “heart problem” as politics and religion are being used to “camouflage meanness.”