The Rev. William J. Barber has agreed to extend his tenure as president of the North Carolina NAACP after receiving a “personal and public appeal” by some of the group’s most prominent members.
Barber, 53, announced in May that he was stepping down to help organize and lead a new Poor People’s Campaign, fashioned after 1968 movement of the same name that was founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to demand economic justice for the nation’s poor residents.
In the weeks since Barber announced his planned departure, much has happened that could impact voting rights in North Carolina. So at the request of state NAACP members, Barber said on Sunday that he will stay in his current role until a vote is taken in October to elect a new state president.
“When I made my initial announcement about stepping down in May, the Supreme Court’s critical decisions about voting rights in North Carolina was not in the landscape, nor was the possibility of drawing new lines and holding a special election in 2017,” Barber wrote. “Further, we did not yet face the prospect of a legislative body passing a budget that would cut millions from the justice department and promote rules that would ban protestors.”
Barber said those and other factors caused him to reconsider the timing of his departure.
“Theologically, I’ve been reminded that the same Holy Spirit that prompted Paul to go in one direction would make (an) adjustment in timing based on new realities that arose,” he added.
Barber said his family, church and leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign supported his decision to delay his departure.
In a letter dated June 20, 16 members of the state NAACP signed a letter asking Barber to stay on for now.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued three rulings blocked the state’s voter ID law and declared state and federal legislative districts unconstitutionally gerrymandered to suppress the black vote.
The group said Barber, who also founded the “Moral Monday” protest movement, had been a “major moral, unifying voice” in opposing voter suppression.
“In short,” the group said, “it would be a very inopportune time for him to turn over his gavel to a temporary replacement now.”