In the spring of 2013, seventeen people gathered at the North Carolina state legislature to protest extreme legislation passed by the General Assembly attacking health insurance, unemployment insurance, labor, and voting rights. The ministers, labor, and human rights activists began praying, singing, and chanting, and were ultimately arrested. That group grew into crowds of thousands at successive "Moral Mondays" rallies, and by summer's end nearly 1,000 people had been arrested, making this sustained moral protest one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. The effort grew out of seven years of organizing with more than 160 groups.
Rallies continued in 2014, with a "Moral March" of 80,000 people in February. Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a pastor and president of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP, now the largest in the South, became one of the architects of the Forward Together Moral Movement. In a new book, Forward Together, Rev. Barber tells the story of a new fusion civil rights movement, a "big tent," in which black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats are all welcome.
Rev. Barber's sermons/speeches at the protests, many of them collected in Forward Together, became the inspiration and rallying cry for a new civil rights movement. North Carolina today is at the epicenter of the political and spiritual crisis affecting 21st-century America. What happens here, says Barber, can shift the center of gravity in the American political discourse. Similar movements are now growing in states around the country.
Forward Together captures the essence of what it means to preach in the public square.