Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and a nationally known champion of social justice causes, will speak at Commencement in Guilford College’s 179th year Saturday, May 14.
Barber has served as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro, N.C., since 1993. In addition to leading the largest state NAACP in the South, he is a member of the organization’s national board and chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee.
Since 2013, Barber has mobilized the N.C. Forward Together “Moral Monday” Movement, a multiracial, multigenerational movement of thousands for protests of recent policies of the governor and state legislature at the N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh and around the state.
“Dr. Barber is an inspirational leader by example, and has dedicated his life to achieving educational, economic and equal justice among all people,” said President Jane K. Fernandes. “We look forward to hearing him speak to Guilford College graduates and their families on Commencement Day.”
Historian and Duke Divinity School professor Timothy Tyson, son of retired minister Vernon Tyson ’53, named Barber “the most important progressive political leader in this state in generations ... He built a statewide interracial fusion political coalition that has not been seriously attempted since 1900.”
Barber earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina Central University, where he was student government president. He received a master of divinity degree from Duke University, where he was a Benjamin Mays Fellow and Dean Scholar. He earned a doctorate from Drew University (N.J.) with a concentration in public policy and pastoral care.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., as a child Barber relocated with his family to eastern North Carolina. His father served as the first African-American in the Department of General Science and Physics at Washington County’s white high school, while his mother became its first black office manager.
Barber was awarded the 2006 Juanita Jackson Mitchell Esq. Award for legal activism, the highest award in the NAACP for legal redress for advocacy and the 2010 National NAACP Kelly M. Alexander Humanitarian Award.
In 2009, Gov. Beverly Purdue awarded him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an award presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state.
Guilford College’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. May 14 on the lawn of the central campus quadrangle.