Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, born just two days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. (Courtesy photo)

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.

The preacher, Reverend William Barber, II, was born just two days after another noted minister, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.  Incidentally, the date for that historic event was selected by civil rights groups to memorialize the murder of 14 year old Chicagoan, Emmett Till, in Money, Miss. Barber was born in the shadow of social justice history and it so captivated his aura perhaps and made him the dedicated fighter for justice known by some but not recognized enough by too many.

Reverend Barber was born Aug. 30, 1963 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Eleanor Barber and William Barber Sr.  He attended Plymouth High School and graduated from North Carolina Central University for undergraduate school, he obtained his Master’s degree from Duke and a doctorate degree from Drew University. 

His mother was the first Black office manager at a school and his father taught science (Physics) there; it was then an all-white school. 

The Reverend and his wife, Rebecca McLean were married in 1987; they have five children.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. It is a Disciples of Christ affiliate.

Many knew of Barber’s Moral Mondays Movement before much was known about him personally. It was a grassroots movement in protest of North Carolina’s eliminating voting rights and cutting social programs as well as attacks on women’s rights. But he was a local NAACP youth council leader in his early years, that is, at 15 years old.   

Reverend William Barber became the activist he is known as today after he became an ordained minister. He steadily led protests in Raleigh, N.C. eventually forming an organization entitled “Repairers of the Breach.” 

His organizing, advocacy and preaching in churches and at protests have taken him to national prominence.  Barber’s perspective on the issues of poverty elimination, voting rights protections and racial justice are based on his understanding of the United States Constitution’s promise and the Christian Gospels commands.  He gave an address at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 and he recently led interfaith prayers at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration ceremony in 2020.

Reverend Barber is the face of the modern-day Poor Peoples’ Campaign first established by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967-1968. He has organized Blacks, Browns and Whites to fight for jobs with fair wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions. Barber is highly respected, focused on serving the needs of the poor as its highest profiled advocated and committed to holding America to a moral standard never yet realized.  Barber’s movement seeks to complete MLK’s dream of “jobs and freedom” for all, which was the theme of the 1963 March on Washington.

Reverend Barber and his organization’s co-chair, theologian Reverend Liz Theoharis, have called for a huge Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers Assembly and Moral March on Washington, DC on June 18, 2022.  All are urged and welcome to participate. For information on the details of the march go to

To call Reverend William Barber a prophet seems too common place.  He is a preacher’s preacher: an activist’s activist, the embodiment of an unwavering, right-focus on the poor, he sermonizes with what he says and what he does.  He understands that change takes time, vigilance and energy.  

Barber may be overestimating America’s conscience and ability to respect moral arguments.  But he is one of the finest leaders in America today.  And he fights for the poor knowing (to paraphrase author James Baldwin) that “if they take poor people in the morning, they’ll be coming for the rest of us that night.” Come to Washington, DC on June 22 to fight for change.

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