Participants hold hands at the Moral Monday demonstration on the grassy lawn of the N.C. General Assembly last Monday (June 17). During Moral Monday demonstrations, participants listen to a fiery speech denouncing the Republican majority’s legislative actions, sing freedom songs, chant civil rights slogans and then they march two by two into the legislative building to be handcuffed by police and arrested for failing orders to disperse. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

Participants hold hands at the Moral Monday demonstration on the grassy lawn of the N.C. General Assembly last Monday (June 17). During Moral Monday demonstrations, participants listen to a fiery speech denouncing the Republican majority’s legislative actions, sing freedom songs, chant civil rights slogans and then they march two by two into the legislative building to be handcuffed by police and arrested for failing orders to disperse. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

RALEIGH, N.C. (RNS) The throngs of demonstrators who flock to the grassy knoll outside the North Carolina Statehouse each Monday know the drill.

They listen to a fiery speech denouncing the Republican majority’s legislative actions. They sing freedom songs and chant civil rights slogans. Then they march two by two into the legislative building to be handcuffed by police and arrested for failing to obey orders to disperse.

Leading them in this weekly rite of nonviolent civil disobedience is the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the state’s NAACP chapter. Since assuming the state presidency eight years ago, he has waged numerous battles challenging local and state governments to extend educational opportunities, broaden the voting base, provide health care and more generally lift up the poor.

At a time when the country is becoming less religious and liberal politicians shy away from faith-based rhetoric, this Disciples of Christ minister, steeped in the activist traditions of the black church, has emerged as a galvanizing force in North Carolina’s pushback against the Republican-dominated legislature.

And with his bearlike stature and thundery oratory, he has towered over his secular political counterparts.

Over the course of nearly two months, he has prodded 480 North Carolinians to get arrested during weekly “Moral Monday” demonstrations. At Monday’s (June 24) demonstration, Barber expected nearly 300 more at what is billed “Mass Moral Monday.”

Two clergy members march against cuts to education during the seventh Moral Monday protest on June 17 in Raleigh, N.C. Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com

Two clergy members march against cuts to education during the seventh Moral Monday protest on June 17 in Raleigh, N.C. Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“He communicates the message of the South with a power I had heard only in recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Christian writer and activist in Durham who has known the preacher since he was in high school.

With Barber steering the opposition to cuts in unemployment benefits, health care funding, voting rights and environment regulations, the movement has taken on the feel of a church revival. Each demonstration begins with a call to join hands and pray. Barber’s speech is inflected with biblical references to Pharaoh, Goliath, good and evil. Then there are the folksy civil rights refrains: “Woke up this morning with my mind set on justice,” and “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

With his photo in the newspapers and on TV, the 49-year-old Barber has become as well known as Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.

At a Durham coffee shop last week, web developer Jim McManus walked up to Barber to say, “Thank you for all you’re doing with Moral Monday.”

The Rev. William J. Barber II consulting with church member Shyrl Hinnant Uzzell. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

The Rev. William J. Barber II consulting with church member Shyrl Hinnant Uzzell. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“I’m really alarmed at what’s happening,” said McManus, of Durham. Barber encouraged his visitor to attend Moral Mondays and stop by and say hello.

To outsiders, North Carolina is often indistinguishable from a host of Southern states with equally conservative social and fiscal agendas. But in fact, it has long been a moderate state in which Democrats controlled the governor’s office for 20 years, and until last year, controlled at least one body of the legislature since the 1800s.

No one knows this better than Barber, an avid student of the state’s history. Barber talks incessantly of his vision for “fusion politics” modeled after a period in the late 19th century when the state’s Populist and Republican parties, blacks and whites, joined forces to govern the state.

He points out he’s not wedded to the Democratic Party but rather to coalitions that are willing to fight for just causes.

“Narrow-minded, isolated agendas aren’t going to hold themselves up as meaningful in the changing demographics of our country,” he said. “A regressive agenda doesn’t fit.”

To that end, he rises at 6 a.m. each day and spends countless hours crisscrossing the state in a black GMC Yukon, meeting with various constituencies and building an ever-growing coalition.

After speaking to a conference of United Church of Christ ministers, he climbed into his car, got on his cell phone and joined a conference call with ministers, rabbis and academics. By 10 p.m., he set off for the 90-minute commute back to Goldsboro where he lives with his wife and five children.

A clergyman protesting for the environment at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C. on June 17. Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com

A clergyman protesting for the environment at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C. on June 17. Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The feverish activism is something he learned from his father. Barber was born in Indianapolis on Aug. 30, 1963 — two days after the Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His father, William, a minister and an activist, was so swept up by the civil rights movement, he decided to move his family back to North Carolina and enroll his only son in a segregated school.

North Carolina’s public school began to desegregate in the early 1970s, and Barber’s parents helped lead the charge.

Barber picked up the mantle early. He 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 at 19.

He worked for the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s failed 1984 presidential bid, and succeeded in opening a voting precinct on campus.

After completing a master’s at Duke Divinity School, he settled into the life of a pastor but very quickly found himself fighting on behalf of his congregants for clean water or the right of labor groups to organize.

“There’s no one who works harder,” said Rob Stephens, the field secretary for the NAACP chapter. “You can never do as much as what he’s going to do.”

All that activism hasn’t won him many friends among Republicans in Raleigh, some of whom have dubbed the protests “Moron Mondays” and labeled the demonstrators “mostly white, angry, aged former hippies.”

“They’re counterproductive,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican who represents Union County outside Charlotte, referring to the demonstrations. “I appreciate the concerns many people are voicing, and the desire to be heard on a number of issues. But the way they’re going about it serves no good purpose. It’s all show and no go.”

A man holds a "Respect Teachers" sign at the June 17 Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, NC. The NAACP-led protests have recently become more organized around specific issues like education, environment, Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com

A man holds a “Respect Teachers” sign at the June 17 Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, NC. The NAACP-led protests have recently become more organized around specific issues like education, environment, Photo by Anna Scott/WilmingtonFAVS.com


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

There’s no question Barber is a polarizing figure to some, and that may be the reason there haven’t been any serious face-to-face conversations between the lawmakers and the demonstrators.

“I think intelligent black men scare people,” said the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, a liberal congregation active on many social justice issues.

Barber, too, may recognize there’s little maneuvering space with the current legislature. He’s focused on legal challenges and voter registration drives intended to stop the government’s actions in its tracks.

“We may not sprint forward,” he acknowledged, “but there’s a resistance to going backward.” That’s why he’s picked the slogan for his campaign: “Forward together. Not one step back.”

And then there are the arrests. On Monday morning, Barber was in court to challenge them on constitutional grounds. But on Monday night, many will proudly wear a gray and white pin. It reads: “I went to jail with Rev. Barber.”

KRE/AMB END SHIMRON

15 Comments

  1. Marsha Johnson

    Great piece, you captured the tone of the atmosphere beautifully. As an Atheist, I have been compelled to attend and support the last three Moral Mondays, and have found the messages, the actions and participants to be on the highest level of altruism, compassion and inclusiveness I have experienced in my 53 years of living. There is no divisiveness, no conflict, our message is clear. You give a clear and concise background of the timeline which has been stalled by this NCGA, and the mission of the movement, which intends to keep North Carolina as the new South, progressive, compassionate, ever reaching out to the least of these. Thank you~!

  2. It appears that the “feel good” Moral Monday folks have their actions well within their comfort zone. They get a minor misdemeanor citation to frame on the wall. If these good folks REALLY wished to bugger up the works for the establishment it’s quite simple. REFUSE BOND/BAIL. In other words don’t get bailed out or decline to leave the custody of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office/Raleigh City Jail. If the City of Raleigh had to deal with a couple of hundred senior citizens… they would soon run out of jail space in one or two demonstrations. The jailers wouldn’t want to assume responsibility for the meds and special needs, etc. The cost to the city would be soon astronomical, and the legal risk would be what it would be… too much. Simply follow the money for political issue resolutions.

    Trust me, once there are blue and peach colored hair people incarcerated, the press will have a field day, and the children in the legislature will wake up and start to think at least a little.

    Best regards,

    • Mistake 1. City of Raleigh does not run the County Jail
      Mistake 2. That the operators of the Jail (County) have any influence over the Capitol Police or the State Legislature
      Mistake 3. That someone gave you a passing grade in Civics. “Know your cuts of state and local government”

  3. If only Barber spent as much time studying the Bible as he did studying NC history. If y’all want to protest, that is fine, but there is nothing moral about these protests at all. If we’re going the moral route, killing babies is not moral. Homosexuality is not moral. This is a political issue not a moral one.

  4. Denise s. Cabell

    It gave me hope for justice in America for people of color & for the poor by reading your article. I am in urgent need of NAACP & all good people to support me as I was falsely arrested & mistreated in what I can only call a racial attiude
    in Radcliffe,kentucky courts after viewing Walmart video wanted to drop charges as long as I agreed not to sue & take probation after a charge made off lies that disgrace my name and reputation and ability to work as a cashier.This is my 2nd email as I have not had success reaching NAACP next jury trail set 1-24-14 my message number 765-274-6743 thank you

  5. Denise s. Cabell

    We who understand the value in compassion towards all people know it is time for all of humanity to be one family disregarding race, income,positions one holds as evil has skillfully divided all good people. I found your article powerful&empowering! I am in urgent need of NAACP & all good people to support me as I was falsely arrested on shop lifting charges for the disposable clear hangers Walmart gives free to customers at check out or they trash them if Cust. donot want them. I know since I have worked as a cashier at TN & VA state walmart stores never stole anything ! Yet, after being given free hangers that they never sell &given permission to ask cashiers & check trash they walmart had cops arrest me denied a phone call refused medical help or a way to get needed pills doctors had me on due to strokes.The matter by which they treated me , I can only sum up as injustice against all poor people & use of law to attack people of color!!! Something sinks in Radcliffe,kentucky & within their courts.this state gets paid by everyone they arrest falsely or rightly therefore, my question is why would they care if cops are misusing their power & arresting innoccent people.The walmart video showed them giving me the hangers & after court system/ judges etc,viewed Walmart video they wanted to drop charges as long as I agreed not to sue & take probation after a charge made off lies that disgrace my name and reputation and ability to work as a cashier.This is my 2nd email as I have not had success reaching NAACP next jury trail set 1-24-14 my message number 765-274-6743 thank you

  6. Sad so many are easily swayed by what seem to be wholesome events. Moral Monday is a catholic invention to move America further into the mother hen’s arms. Socialism or Fascism is acceptable form of government by her, read Vatican.va to see. It’s easy to destroy a county using dialectic speech as both parties are under one umbrella. Take a look at what religion dominates the supreme court, blue mass, red mass including the take over of hospitals. The country is being destroyed because protestant churches failed to preach the truth which ended quickly in the 1950′s.
    The bible 100% accurately describes who the whole world loves and follows including both political parties. But this truth died and is now buried along with the dead protestant churches. If a true preacher or prophet stood on the grass knoll he would advise to turn away from Babylon and repent and stop the traditions of the mother hen. Seek the Kingdom of GOD first only then will you be blessed. Ignoring Christ’s laws and putting on a fake cloak of righteousness called Moral Monday’s will only lead to your further downfall. In addition and pastor who uses “Revered” in his title you should run away from quickly. Revered is used one time in the bible and it is only used for GOD. Psalm 111:9 – Revered

      • Moral Mondays are bring unity among the churches over a common cause.
        http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x1463427212/Clergy-lead-Moral-Monday-protest. GOD stated to come out of Babylon not to Join her.

        Charismatic movement bring unity protestants and Catholics together.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PSV72Tjy8g
        http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2269/the_charismatic_renewal_and_the_catholic_church.aspx

        Who runs WCC: Keywords: ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.
        http://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us

        Religious Leaders come before the Pope in unity. 1 Thessalonians 5:3
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foi-c2ElW6o

        Frank I would recommend reading the bible and then going diligently going through the traditions of the Catholic church. You have a choice follow GOD or tradition. Does the bible advocate storing blood and skin of Pope’s in vials to be prayed to? Link: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=878873

        Did Christ say his work was finished on the cross? The Pope says no it was not I they call him off his throne at every mass to be sacrificed at the Priest authority.

        Father John O’Brien, The Faith of Millions:
        When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim. The priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man—not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.

        Is Mary co-redeemer, Pray to Mary, was Mary the ever virgin ? Bible states Christ Alone John 14:6, Bible states Pray to Father in Name of Christ John 14:14 – John 15:16. Bible states she was not the ever Virgin Matthew 1:25.

        Mary Queen of Heaven or Idolatrous Babylonian Worship? Hot Cross Buns or cakes to the Queen of Heaven.
        Jeremiah 7:18

        Catholic priest are forbidden to marry, bible states they can be married and gives conditions. http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/3-2.htm

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