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Book review

The social movement that is the Third Reconstruction

PEP photo by Mike Lee
The Rev. William Barber II speaking at the AFSCME convention in July 2016.
The Rev. William Barber II, a leader of the North Carolina Moral Mondays Movement who is increasingly prominent on the national stage, is one of our greatest champions in the fight against Trumpism and the forces of inequality.

In “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Fear,” the Rev. Barber tells the story of his lifelong involvement in the social justice movement.

His is a journey that began when he was a boy learning from his father – also a preacher. His early experience included organizing in North Carolina for civil rights in the 1960s (the Second Reconstruction), going to meetings in activists’ homes and in churches, as well as participating in demonstrations across the state.

The Rev. Barber went on to college and divinity school, and he returned to North Carolina as a preacher to take part in the Third Reconstruction. As a church leader in Goldsboro, he fought the New Jim Crow with sermons on Sundays, grassroots community organizing and protests with his neighbors and parishioners for social justice on such issues as education, environmental racism, labor rights, and voting rights.

Barber describes how he learned the necessity of building coalitions across racial lines and working with community activists struggling over a multitude of issues.

The Rev. Barber also expanded the struggle statewide by winning the presidency of the North Carolina NAACP on a promise to reinvigorate that organization from the bottom up.

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2013, the North Carolina NAACP joined with community organizations statewide in a massive protest at the state capital, Raleigh, protesting the increasing right-wing policies on voter suppression and the attacks on the poor. As a community leader and pastor, he has been involved in continuous demonstrations and civil disobedience. His coalition has been marching and praying ever since on the issues of civil rights, mass incarceration, police brutality, voter suppression, immigration reform, LGBT rights, women’s rights, a $15 minimum wage and a right to form a union.

Barber’s coalition gained impressive victories this past election by helping elect a new Democratic governor, attorney general and chief judge. But the struggle continues with the gerrymandered North Carolina legislature.

The Moral Mondays movement is still active and growing and Barber is reaching out nationally.

He writes:

“We have witnessed the power of ‘moral fusion,’ or organizing across racial lines … to build a coalition for progress in 21st-century America. The months and years ahead will not be easy, but right here in North Carolina we have seen a Moral Movement that can overcome Trump’s extremism. Join the Moral Movement….

“Together, following the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights movement, we can look forward to a Third Reconstruction of racial justice and healing in America.”

Barber has joined forces with a new organization, Repairers of the Breach, which on New Year’s Eve sponsored a Teach-in in Washington, D.C., calling for a New Poor People’s Movement inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was working on the original movement before his assassination in Memphis during the Sanitation workers’ strike. For analysis and inspiration, you can go to to learn more about the Rev. Barber. His new book, “The Third Reconstruction,” is available in the Education Fund Library Room 211 at DC 37.

Ken Nash, retired librarian,
DC 37 Ed Fund Library,
and co-host of WBAI Radio’s Building Bridges.