Barber to Keynote 59th Annual February One Sit-In Celebration

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Jan. 7, 2019) – MacArthur Genius Grant awardee and national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II will serve as keynote speaker for the February One Sit-In commemorative program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Celebrating the legacy of Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair Jr.), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond -- better known collectively as the A&T Four – the event annually marks the day when those N.C. A&T freshmen refused to leave a segregated lunch counter at a downtown Greensboro Woolworth’s. Their simple act of defiance touched off a sit-in movement nationwide and established a prominent place for them in U.S. civil rights history.

Rev. Barber’s work is related in many ways to the legacy of the A&T Four. He was elected president of the NAACP Youth Council at 15, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science at North Carolina Central University. He subsequently earned a master’s degree from Duke and a doctorate from Drew University before being named pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., a post he has held since 1993.

Barber’s activism throughout his lifetime has taken many forms, most prominently as architect of the Moral Monday alliance of more than 200 progressive organizations. Over the past six years, that statewide movement has fought for voting rights, public education, university healthcare, environmental protection and the rights of women, labor, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. The group’s weekly protests at the North Carolina capitol have drawn tens of thousands of participants and many times included arrests for civil disobedience.  

It was primarily for his Moral Monday leadership that Barber was chosen as one of 25 MacArthur Fellows or “Genius Grant” winners for 2018 by the MacArthur Foundation. The foundation also cited his founding of Repairers of the Breach, a national leadership development group that he launched in 2014 to expand the Moral Monday movement. Barber also partnered with colleagues in 2017 to revive the Poor People’s Campaign originally started by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the late 1960s. Barber is now co-leader of that group.

In recognition of his growing national prominence and leadership across the state, Barber was recently named Tar Heel of the Year for 2018 by the News & Observer, which publishes both the state capitol’s newspaper of record and 10 community papers across North Carolina.

Ticket distribution will begin Jan. 14, 8 a.m., at the University Ticket Office in Brown Hall. Call (336) 334-7749 for information regarding hours.

The February One Sit-In program is as follows (all events are on the N.C. A&T campus):

  • Breakfast: 7 a.m., Alumni Foundation Event Center
    • Program: 8 a.m.
  • Laying of the A&T Four Memorial Wreath: 10 a.m., February One Monument
  • Panel Discussion: 10:30 a.m., Harrison Auditorium