Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a leading civil rights advocate for the past two decades received a prestigious 2018 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” on Thursday, Oct. 4 for his dedication to moral-social justice.

In 2013, he launched the Moral Monday’s movement in North Carolina, designed to resist the state legislature’s extremist retrogressive agenda.

This agenda included attacking voting rights, health care expansion, living wages, union rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights and public education.

In 2016, he electrified the Democratic National Convention with a plea for Americans to be “moral defibrillators” to save the soul of the nation.

“It is a deep and profound honor and overwhelming surprise to receive this award. It inspires me to keep working, keep standing, keep loving and to continue working for the cause of justice,” Rev. Barber said. 

“The moral crises of our time are the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the false, distorted moral narrative of so-called ‘religious nationalism.” 

“I, along with others believe that only a moral fusion movement can work to change these realities.”

Last year, alongside Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, he took up the fight against systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and the distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.

Barber is currently on a Poor People’s Campaign national tour aimed at mobilizing poor and low-income voters to the polls ahead of the Midterms. 

As part of this effort, Rev. Barber was arrested in Chicago committing civil disobedience alongside workers in the Fight for $15 who were lifting up their demand for union rights for workers across the service sector. 

Rev. Barber joins 24 others in the 2018 class of MacArthur Fellows in disciplines like the arts, sciences, public health and civil liberties.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years, according to the foundation. 

The program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. 

Since 1981, 1014 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Rev. Barber currently serves as the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C.; is the National President and Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach; and is the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

“Working in diverse fields…these 25 MacArthur Fellows are solving long-standing scientific and mathematical problems, pushing art forms into new and emerging territories, and addressing the urgent needs of under-resourced communities. Their exceptional creativity inspires hope in us all,” Cecilia Conrad, managing director, MacArthur Fellows Program said.