Civil Rights

Those rights which are expressly enumerated in the Constitution and are considered to be unquestionable; deserved by all people under all circumstances, especially without regard to race, creed, color, gender and disabilities.

Abraham Lincoln

Sixteenth President of the United States: 1809-1865

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy."

Biography

Abraham Lincoln is often described as America’s best – and most popular – president. Republicans and Democrats alike claim Honest Abe as their own. Yet we often forget that Lincoln was a complicated human being, and that his presidency was the most controversial in American history: seven southern states seceded in protest when he was elected in 1860, effectively launching the Civil War. He was the commander-in-chief of the Union Army during a war that took the lives of at least 620,000 Americans. He suspended the civil liberty of habeas corpus and instituted the first national military draft. Indeed, he was so controversial that after winning office he had to sneak into Washington on a secret train to avoid a suspected assassination plot; and when he left, it was in a coffin, the victim of a Confederate sympathizer’s bullet.

All American politicians like to cast themselves as men-of-the-people, but few have come from beginnings as humble as Lincoln’s. He was born on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 in a dirt-floor log-cabin with one window, one door hung on leather hinges, and a primitive stick-and-mud chimney. He was tall, very tall. One of his good friends remembered him as “a long tall raw boned boy—odd and gawky.” Too often his clothes didn´t fit.  Wrote one country observer, “Between the shoe and Sock & his britches—made of buckskin there was bare & naked 6 or more inches of Abe Lincoln shin bone.”[i] But the ragged appearance clothed an intellectually ravenous mind, and discovering books changed Lincoln’s life. He read everything he could get his hands on, and in his mid-twenties taught himself law, receiving his license to practice in 1836.

It was an auspicious moment to begin a career as a lawyer, for political freedom was rapidly expanding. Although the privilege of voting was restricted to a very few wealthy, white, landowning men in the years immediately following the Revolution, by the early decades of the nineteenth-century these property qualifications were being overturned, allowing many more white men to vote.

Social activists—including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth—campaigned for female suffrage, laying the groundwork that would eventually result in the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. It was also the age of both slavery and abolitionism when approximately one in every ten Americans lived in bondage, and the Radical Abolitionists argued not just that slavery was immoral, but that second-class citizenship violated the spirit of that most idealistic of American documents, the Declaration of Independence.

Yet, Lincoln himself was not an unqualified champion of equality. Elected to the Illinois House of Representative in 1834, he made a mark as a politician who fought against both the extension of slavery and against the full and immediate equality of blacks advocated by the radical abolitionists. As a Congressman from Illinois, he voted to exclude slavery from the territories recently taken from Mexico in the Mexican American War. And he voted to

abolish the slave trade in Washington D.C. But in 1854, Lincoln, speaking of the slaves, declared, “Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this.”[ii] And in his 1861 inaugural address he argued that he had no constitutional power to end slavery, nor could he repeal the Fugitive Slave Law.

But the Lincoln who, in 1858, had said that the peculiar institution of slavery “should be put in course of ultimate extinction”[iii] was the man who so terrified the South.

How should we understand Lincoln’s position on race? Was he a wartime general who signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863—freeing the slaves in the rebellious Confederacy— only to help preserve the Union? Or was he a champion of equality? Can one be against slavery and yet still be a racist? These are important questions to ask, important arguments to have. It’s equally important to point out that Lincoln’s evolving understanding of power and liberty was stopped by John Wilkes Booth’s bullet—and so we may never know, for certain, what Lincoln really thought.

What we can say is that Lincoln´s actions as president managed to preserve the union of states that we think of as the United States and also ended slavery in this country for good.

It does seem that the cornerstone of Lincoln’s political philosophy was his faith in the exceptionalism of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” reads the famous second sentence.

However, the notion of an American exceptionalism is a loaded one. Today’s political Right often understands “American exceptionalism” to mean that America is better than other nations and a model to them: they should work harder to be more like us. To the Left, “American exceptionalism” often signifies the hubris used to justify American economic and military interventions around the globe.

But there’s a third way of thinking about American exceptionalism, a way that eludes the love-it-or-leave-it version of the Right as well as the wary stance of the Left. As Lincoln—certainly one of America’s most gifted orators—said during his 1863 speech after the terrible battle of Gettysburg:

It is for us the living...to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to that great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.[iv]

 

Perhaps this is Lincoln’s legacy: an exceptionalism that honors America’s founding ideals by emphasizing the ever-unfinished obligation of every American—both Left and Right—to struggle towards those still unrealized yet self-evident truths that all people are created equal.



[i] Quoted in William Lee Miller, Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography (New York: Vintage Books, 2002).

[ii] Abraham Lincoln, “Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act at Peoria, Illinois,” in The Portable Abraham Lincoln Andrew Delbanco, ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2009) 51.

[iii] Abraham Lincoln, “Speech at Chicago, Illinois,” in The Portable Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Delbanco, ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2009) 118.

[iv] Abraham Lincoln, “Address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” in The Portable Abraham Lincoln Andrew Delbanco, ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2009) 324.

 

 

Kelsey Juliana

Environmental Activist, Student: b. 1996

"Government actions knowingly and willfully created the climate crisis. From this crisis young and future generations face increasing dangers. As courageous, creative change-makers we have the opportunity and moral authority to change the social, political, and economic structures that cause injustice and climate chaos. Youth are standing up for our fundamental right to inherit a stable and survivable planet. We have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not."

Biography

When Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana was a babe in arms, her parents, Tim Ingalsbee and Catia Juliana were leaders in the Warner Creek protests, protecting endangered species and old growth forests from federal timber sales in Oregon. At the time,Warner Creek was the longest blockade of a forest road by environmental activists in U.S. history.

As she grew up, Kelsey became a self-described “eco girl” in The Village School, her K-8 public charter school.  She ran down the halls ducking in and out of empty classrooms making sure lights were turned off. During fourth grade, she organized her classmates to participate in the first International Day of Climate Activism.

In middle school, Kelsey cried as she presented her research paper on how climate change was endangering the polar bear population. Taking on the roles of Amy Goodman, Rachel Corrie and Yoko Ono in an original political musical put on by her 8th grade class, she grew  beyond being an environmentalist toward becoming an eco-warrior.

And she was only just beginning.

By the time she was 15, before she could vote or drive, Kelsey sued the Governor of Oregon.  A series of events led her into the courtroom, beginning with the work of her mentor, Mary Christina Wood, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at the University of Oregon. Wood has spent her career studying the public trust doctrine and has devised a strategy she calls Atmospheric Trust Litigation, which asserts that the atmosphere itself should be held in public trust. The idea for the lawsuit came from Julia Olson, Wood’s colleague and the lead attorney and founder of the non-profit, Our Children's Trust, which “elevates the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations.” The legal argument -- that governments are required to protect certain “public trust” resources for current and future generations -- dates back to ancient Rome. (The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public trust resources include water and shorelines.)

Kelsey started her legal advocacy in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon in 2011 when she and Olvia Cherinak became co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the state of Oregon of violating the public trust by failing to take adequate steps to limit climate change. While the lawsuit, known as Chernaik v. Brown, was dismissed by the Lane County Circuit Court, Kelsey and Olivia appealed and are awaiting a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals.  Knowing the climate crisis cannot be solved at the state-level alone, Kelsey next set her sights on something far bigger – the destructive climate actions taken by the U.S. government. In 2015, Kelsey and 20 other youth from around the country––from Alaska to Florida, New York to Hawaii, and many places in between––filed a first-of-its-kind, landmark lawsuit against the Executive Branch of the United States government. In the lawsuit, known as Juliana v U.S., the youth claim that the United States, knowing full well what effect the mass burning of fossil fuel would have on the lives of present and future generations, has, through its aggregate actions, violated the youngest and future generations' constitutionally-protected, fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life. If the youth plaintiffs succeed, the President and his heads of agencies will be ordered to create and implement a science-based Climate Recovery Plan. The case has cleared several key legal hurdles and is scheduled to begin in the District Court of Oregon on October 29th, 2018. (A list of  all the youth plaintiffs as well as the history of these proceedings can be found here.)

Upon graduation from High School, Kelsey joined The Great March for Climate Action walking across the country to raise awareness about the imminent dangers of climate change. Afterward, she told the journalist Bill Moyers: “You don’t have to call yourself an activist to act…I think that’s so important that people my age really get [that] into their heads. As a younger person, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not… It’s important that youth are the ones who are standing up because of the fact that we do have so much to lose.”

After beginning her college education in Environmental Studies at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, she returned to Eugene, Oregon to continue her education at University of Oregon and be closer to the courtrooms where her legal fight was unfolding.

In the spring of 2018, Kelsey returned to The Village School to speak to students who had been in kindergarten when she began her legal journey. She was asked this question:  "How do you keep from getting discouraged and angry when you hear our government lying about the effects of fossil fuels on our climate and fighting your case with all they have?"

Kelsey responded: “This work must be done out of love. Motivation and activism and advocacy cannot come from rage or anger or hopelessness. These feelings are unsustainable, short-lived and detrimental for those harboring them, which will then, most likely, be reflected in one’s work and therefore inhibit true, lasting positive change. We cannot push society towards more positive, inclusive, sustainable directions without LOVE as the main driver of activism because you cannot burn out of love.”

Kelsey and her 20 fellow youth plaintiffs who range in age from 12-22 years of age are hopeful that they will win their case. If the courts recognize their rights, inherent in the public trust doctrine, to clean air and water, the victory will compel the U.S Government, after decades of  promoting and supporting a nationwide energy system powered by fossil fuel, to immediately enact policy changes that could alter the course of human caused climate change in the United States. This outcome would have repercussions around the world.

When her time in the courtroom is over, Kelsey plans to continue her service by pursuing a career as public school teacher.

 

Baldemar Velasquez

Labor Organizer: b. 1947

"Speak truth to power with love in your heart. Pray for courage to speak it despite your fears. Explain the inequity and show your enemy the road to reconciliation. "

Biography

The first known labor organization in the United States was the National Labor Union (NLU), established in Baltimore, Maryland in 1866. The NLU sought to organize workers across various segments, including skilled and unskilled workers, as well as some farm laborers. The organization didn’t last, shuttering in the 1870s. When one reviews the history of the American Labor Movement, it’s noticeable that, except for a brief period during the 1930s and 1940s, agricultural workers of color rarely were included.

Historically, African American and Latino workers have been associated with the land, whether working on plantations in the American South or farms and ranches in the Midwest and Southwest. The American South was (and remains) notorious for its anti-organized labor sentiment, regardless of the workers’ race. This may be due to the feudalistic nature of the post-Civil War slave society and its rigid, cost saving control over laborers through sharecropping and peonage. As the South was an inhospitable climate for the Labor Movement, the first organization of farm laborers took place in the American West. The first successful farm laborer organization was the United Farm Workers, established by Cesar Chavez in California in 1962. Only five years later Baldemar Velasquez established the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Toledo, Ohio. Over time, Velasquez would expand his organizing effort to include migrant and seasonal farm workers.

Baldemar Velasquez was born February 15, 1947 in Pharr, Texas to Cresencio and Vicenta Velasquez. Both Cresencio and Vicenta were migrant farm workers who traveled from Texas to farms throughout the Midwest, planting and harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables, including sugar beets and tomatoes. Velasquez was first introduced to the fields when he was four years old. He says, “me and my brothers and sisters were raised in labor camps, and we didn’t have any money to buy toys, so we played with the rats.” In an interview with the organization Food Tank, Velasquez recalled witnessing his “…family being cheated out of wages and suffer verbal abuses from field men, labor contractors, growers, and racist townspeople in the rural towns” where they worked.

After his family settled in Gilboa, Ohio in 1954, Velasquez continued as a seasonal farm worker through high school. After graduating in 1965, he became the first member of his family to go to college, matriculating at Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas. He would eventually graduate from Bluffton College (now University) in Bluffton, Ohio.

During his Bluffton years Velasquez volunteered with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights organization founded by Bayard Rustin. While volunteering with CORE, Velasquez told another Civil Rights activist the story about playing with rats as a child. The African-American activist asked Velasquez why he wasn’t working to help his own people. “That was the question of the decade,” said Velasquez, “and that summer after my sophomore year in [college], I started organizing the migrant workers.”  In 1967, at the age of 20, Velasquez founded FLOC. He noted that “[w]e coined the phrase ‘the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’ after SNCC,” the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a Civil Rights Movement organization established by college students.

As FLOC got started, Velasquez “thought, mistakenly, that all we had to do was tell the regulatory people that these laws were being broken…you know, the child labor laws, the minimum wage laws…and they’d come in and fix everything, right?” Velasquez soon learned also that “[i]t was a big mistake to go after individual farmers.” Effective organizing required that he determine the true centers of power, so that protests could be directed at the interests of the proper parties, such as the corporations that purchased produce from farmers.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr invited Mr. Velasquez to Atlanta in 1968 to help plan the “Poor People’s Campaign” and he recalled something that Dr.  King said that evening, “…when you impede the rich man’s ability to make money, anything is negotiable.” Velasquez translated this into his work in “every campaign that FLOC worked on…. trying to figure out...the financial leverage point of large corporations.”

In 1978, FLOC organized 2,000 of its members to strike against the Campbell Soup Company, seeking improved working conditions for farm laborers and recognition of the union itself. Eight years later, FLOC successfully negotiated a contract among workers, farmers and Campbell Soup. The contract provided recognition of FLOC as a union, increased the hourly wages of the workers, and provided some health benefits. The contractual arrangement was the first of its kind for farm workers. Three years later, Velasquez was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship.  In 1994, Velasquez was the recipient of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, an honor given by Mexico to non-Mexican citizens who have contributed significantly to Mexican society. In the US, the National Council of La Raza recognized him with the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

As the accolades came in, Velasquez continued organizing workers and his education; in 1991, Velasquez earned an advanced degree in Theology from the Florida International Seminary. In 1993 he was ordained by Rapha Ministries to chaplain the farm workers.  Following the success of the Campbell Soup contract, Velasquez and FLOC negotiated similar deals with other major American food companies. Even with these victories, the 1980s and 1990s were particularly difficult times for the labor movement as a whole: “In this era of union busting, a call needs to be issued to organize for radical changes in the infrastructure of how the agricultural industry does its business,” he wrote.

Velasquez turned his attention to organizing migrant farm workers in the American South. Though it took several years, Velasquez and FLOC successfully negotiated a contract deal with the Mount Olive Pickle Company in North Carolina, the first joint contract among laborers, farmers and a corporation in that state. It was important for Velasquez to keep in mind when conducting these negotiations that “[d]irect employers are not entirely responsible for the many abuses, but consumers are smartening up to hold manufacturers and retailers also responsible for the consequential results surrounding food safety, the environment and worker rights.”

Currently, Velasquez is working to help undocumented immigrants. In an interview with the Toledo Blade, Velasquez called on FLOC members to adopt and support families with undocumented members: “[W]e need to act proactively and take care of our people.” And it is with that spirit that Velasquez reflects on his work, saying “as the victories come and the years go by, I will remember less the details of winning and losing and more acts of caring and love of the many people who have made FLOC possible.”

Lea E. Williams has written a book for middle and high school students on the life and work of the outstanding civil rights strategists, Ella Baker.

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Bryan Stevenson

Death Row Lawyer: b. 1959

"The great evil of American slavery was not involuntary servitude, but rather the narrative of racial differences we created to legitimize slavery. Because we never dealt with that evil, I don't think slavery ended in 1865, it just evolved. "

Biography

Bryan Stevenson has said that “[w]henever society begins to create policies and laws rooted in fear and anger[,] there will be abuse and injustice.”  It’s not often that those who are poor or those who are incarcerated can find a champion who will stand up for them and affirm their humanity, particularly within the U.S. justice system.  Bryan Stevenson is that rare champion.  Through his work representing people who are often marginalized and ignored, Stevenson has been instrumental in tackling the very law enforcement policies that historically are deeply rooted in fear and anger.  And his weapon has been the U.S. Constitution, a document steeped in the principles of the Enlightenment.

Through his work with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing legal help to those who least can afford it, Stevenson has been able to help transform the landscape of the criminal justice system. guided by a belief in the power of being equal before the law. “My work with the poor and incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice,” says Stevenson. And justice is precisely what Stevenson has provided for his clients for decades, as he simultaneously addresses culture with  “... work... aimed at trying to confront the burdens that people of color in this country face, which are heavily organized around presumption of dangerousness and guilt.”  With his recent focus on preserving African American, U.S. Southern and American history, Stevenson is poised to extend that sense of justice from the present to our shared past.

Bryan Stevenson was born on November 14, 1959 to Howard Stevenson, Sr. and Alice (Golden) Stevenson in Milton, Delaware.  After spending his earliest school years in a racially segregated school, Stevenson was a part of the first generation of African Americans in Delaware to experience legalized integration in public schools.  He graduated from Cape Henlopen High School (Lewes, Delaware) in 1977 and matriculated to Eastern University in Wayne, Pennsylvania.  Stevenson studied political science and philosophy and graduated in 1981.

Stevenson moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in the fall of 1981 to attend Harvard University, where he was accepted into a dual degree program in law and public policy with the Harvard Law School (HLS), and Kennedy School of Government. There he discovered his professional calling.  During his second year he signed up for an internship with the Atlanta based Southern Center for Human Rights (Southern Center). There Stevenson witnessed the magnitude of the problem that criminal defendants and the convicted involved in capital legal cases faced in terms of the quality of their legal representation.  Stevenson felt that “capital punishment means ‘them without capital get the punishment.’”  So upon graduation from Harvard in 1985, armed with his dual degree, Stevenson joined the Southern Center as a staff attorney and was assigned to work in Alabama.  In 1989, the congressional funding that supported the Southern Center was eliminated.  But Stevenson, in his dedication to the work, established the EJI in 1994 to guarantee legal representation to death row inmates in Alabama.  “Each of us,” he says, borrowing a line from another criminal justice activist, Sister Helen Prejean, “is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

The following year, Stevenson was awarded a MacArthur fellowship, which he used to support EJI.   Stevenson has been particularly effective at combating the draconian criminal penalties that had been imposed on children under the age of eighteen who are convicted of crimes.  In the landmark 2005 decision, Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court agreed with the EJI and found that sentencing children under eighteen to death was unconstitutional.  In 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court, again, agreed with EJI and found it unconstitutional to give children mandatory life sentences without parole.  With the 2016 Montgomery v. Louisiana case, the Supreme Court applied its Miller ruling retroactively to those in prison who had been sentenced as children to life without parole .  Stevenson noted that “[w]e are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.  An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation….The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and – perhaps – we all need some measure of unmerited grace.”  That Stevenson was able to extend mercy and justice to children in the criminal justice system provided some of that necessary grace.

Stevenson has received a number of accolades and acknowledgements for his work in bringing justice to the least fortunate among us.  In addition to the MacArthur fellowship, Stevenson has received the ACLU National Medal of Liberty, the Reebok Human Rights Award, and the Olaf Palme Prize from Sweden.  He also has received a myriad of honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the nation.  Stevenson is a noted and gifted speaker. His 2012 TED Talk went viral online; he’s also given the keynote speech at the 2015 National Preservation Conference.  Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption, was a New York Times bestseller and was awarded both a NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction and the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Best Non-Fiction.

Stevenson’s desire to seek justice has not been limited to those who currently are navigating the criminal justice system.  In recent years, Stevenson has been looking to past injustices that have been neglected or ignored in the broader society, specifically the history of American slavery and U.S. Southern lynchings in the post-Reconstruction era.  He says, “[t]ruth and reconciliation has always been sequential.  You can’t get to reconciliation and recovery until you’ve got to the truth, and we’ve not done a very good job of telling the truth.  If anything, we’ve distorted the history.”

The Memorial to Peace and Justice will open in Montgomery, Alabama in 2018 as a place to honor the memories of those who were lynched across the South from the post-Reconstruction era through the Civil Rights period.  Stevenson has also planned a museum that will focus on African American history through the lenses of American slavery, Jim Crow and the criminal justice system.  It is important to Stevenson that the various sites in Alabama tied to those aforementioned historical lenses receive historical recognition through historic preservation and the erection of historical markers detailing the history that hasn’t been told. Stevenson noted, “[w]e’ve created the counter-narrative that says we have nothing about which we should be ashamed.”  

Recognizing that injustice comes in many forms, Stevenson continues to fight for justice and truth, whether from our shared past or from the present day.

 

Myles Horton

Educator, Activist: 1905 - 1990

"Probably the most important thing we do for people is to have them participate in an actual democratic experience - a ripe experience where people are free to talk and make decisions, where there is no discrimination, and where their experience is valued. If you don't value a person's experiences, I don't know how you can value them as a person."

Biography

“You can't be a revolutionary, you can't want to change society if you don't love people.” Myles Horton’s love of people drove his career in activism through several decades and causes, from the workers movements of the 1930’s, to the Civil Rights movement, and through the environmental activism of the 1970s and '80s.

Horton is best known as a leader of The Highlander Folk School, which he founded in 1932 with educator Don West and Methodist minister James A. Dombrowski. The three men shared a vision of a place where people of all races could work together to learn and share ideas. The Highlander Folk School was an important learning community for several truth tellers and heroes of the Civil Rights movement, including Anne Braden, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, among others. They gathered in Monteagle, Tennessee to study collective organizing and the power of groups to defeat injustice.

Myles Horton was born on July 9, 1905. He was raised in Savannah, a small town in west Tennessee, by his parents, Elsie Falls and Perry Horton. Both of Horton’s parents were teachers who also worked odd jobs, including in canning factories and sharecropping. The Hortons taught their son to be an activist and to see the value in all members of their community.  In his autobiography, Horton wrote, “From my mother and father I learned the idea of service and the value of education. They taught me by their actions that you are supposed to serve your fellow men, you’re supposed to do something worthwhile with your life, and education is meant to help you do something for others.”  Even when they were poor without much to eat, Horton’s mother would share food with other families in the community. Horton never got angry that he had less food to eat because he saw how strongly his mother believed in giving to others.

Eventually, Horton left home to study at Cumberland University in Nashville. He intended to study education and return to west Tennessee and open a school. Horton believed his best learning happened in the library, where he read books and formed his own ideas.

In 1927, he took a summer job organizing community meetings for the Presbyterian church, encouraging participants to tell their stories. It was excellent practice for the teaching he’d do at Highlander Folk School.

In 1928, Horton, upset that the college YWCA groups were racially segregated, organized a luncheon at a hotel for several local groups. When the black and white students arrived, they were confused, but they sat down to eat. The black servers told Horton they weren't allowed to serve a mixed group of diners. He told them to ask the managers if they wanted to waste food for 120 people and not get paid. The meal was served. Horton knew it was a risk to violate segregation laws; any of the participants could have been arrested or thrown out of the hotel. But Horton wanted to do “something about a moral problem instead of simply talking about it...and over 120 people learned that they could change things if they wanted to.”

Myles Horton traveled the nation and the world, observing schools and thinkers that created change and empowered citizens. He studied at Union Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago. Later, Horton traveled to Europe. He was fascinated by the folk schools of Denmark, which had a strong influence on his ideas about education. In Denmark, he saw that social learning was more effective than book work. He summed up his thoughts on education this way: “Curiosity is very important I think, and I think too much of education, starting with childhood education, is either designed to kill curiosity, or it works out that way anyway.” Horton believed that education was best when it left room for students to develop and share their own ideas.

In 1932, Horton, West, and Dombrowski founded the Highlander Folk School on donated land in Grundy County, Tennessee. They believed that oppressed people were more powerful together. The school was a place for the oppressed to gather, learn, organize, and make change. Throughout the Great Depression, the school advocated for the working class by providing training for workers and labor organizers. Eventually, the school shifted its focus to Civil Rights. Throughout the 1950’s, the school organized literacy and voter registration for Blacks all over the nation. Rosa Parks visited and felt supported and encouraged by the community at Highlander Folk School the school just before her famous refusal to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1964 the Freedom Schools organized by civil rights workers in Mississippi to give African American children and adults the opportunity of educational equality were modeled on the social justice schools developed at Highlander.

The fight for civil rights was long and difficult, with interference from the government and hostile community groups, including the KKK. Tennessee held trials, questioning Horton and trying to link him to communism. In 1961, the state of Tennessee forced The Highlander Folk School to close. Horton and his group organized and reopened the school in Knoxville.

Today, the Highlander Research and Education Center is a social justice leadership training school and cultural center in New Market, Tennessee, northeast of Knoxville.

Horton created an institution that has stayed strong for decades; however, he didn’t believe that institutions themselves deserved respect. Rather, they should earn respect by doing good work:  “When people criticize me for not having any respect for existing structures and institutions, I protest. I say I give institutions and structures and traditions all the respect that I think they deserve. That's usually mighty little, but there are things that I do respect. They have to earn that respect. They have to earn it by serving people. They don't earn it just by age or legality or tradition.”

Myles Horton died in New Market, Tennessee on January 19, 1990. That year, his book The Long Haul: An Autobiography, was published, as well as a collection of conversations with Paolo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change.

 

Bree Newsome

Activist, Singer, Filmmaker: b. 1985

"I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free. "

Biography

On June 27, 2015, Americans watched an unnamed woman scale a 30-foot pole as she removed the confederate flag from outside the state Capitol building in Charleston, South Carolina. We soon learned her name was Brittany "Bree" Newsome.

Newsome is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and holds a BFA degree in Film & Television. While in high school, Newsome composed music for the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. In college, she won several film competitions and since then has released an EP titled #StayStrong: A Love Song To Freedom Fighters. She believes that art is activism.

The courageous 30-year-old filmmaker, activist and songstress’ famous action took place one day after President Obama eulogized Reverend and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of 9 shooting victims in “Mother Emmanuel” AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Newsome worked with a team of 10 people who strategically planned to film the removal of the flag so that the world could see what democracy looks like. While Newsome is a filmmaker she gives credit to Todd Zimmer, a fellow organizer, who envisioned the visual that would go on to have an impact beyond measure.

As she scaled her way to victory she shouted, "You come against me with hatred ... I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!" On her way down, carrying the confederate flag, she recited the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 27: “Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.”

On the ground she was met with both cheerleaders and adversaries. Some called her a hero while others hurled racial slurs that were woven into the fabric of the Confederate flags’ history.

Asked by a reporter from Charleston’s WIS TV  why she removed the flag, Newsome said, "We [for she did not plan the action alone] removed the flag today because we can't wait any longer. We can't continue like this another day. It's time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality. Every day that the flag is up there is an endorsement of hate.”

“We are regular human beings, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, Carolinians, educators, and activists —both black and white— who believe in the fundamental idea of humanity," said an unidentified member of Newsome’s group. "The flag we removed is one of the most familiar remnants of white supremacy that supports the idea that there is still a reigning group of individuals who control our freedom, while tacitly supporting white Americans when they commit heinous and racially charged hate crimes against Blacks and People of Color. We took this task in our own hands because our President, Governor, mayors, legislators, and councilmen had a moral duty to remove the flag but failed to act. We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continued to fly above their caskets."

Within minutes of returning to the ground Newsome and another activist James Ian Tyson were arrested. [Tyson helped holster Newsome and waited for her at the bottom of the pole.] Just hours after the flag was taken down it was raised again. Rallies held by white supremacists and advocates of the flag were held in cities around the country.

In less than 24 hours the hashtag #FreeBree surfaced on the Internet along with coverage of the historic moment. Over $80,000 was crowd funded for her bail. In total, 4,943 people raised $125,705 on Indiegogo for Newsome to support whatever financial obligations she might face due to her arrest.  

In an interview with ELLE magazine a year after her action, Newsome explained why the viral video was key. “It mattered that scaling the flagpole was difficult. The physical battle to climb up there and get that flag was like the struggle to dismantle systemic racism. Nothing about it is easy.”

National moments of unrest due to the recurring acts of brutality against black people is what motivated Newsome’s civil disobedience. When living, breathing and being black is a protest in America it calls for constant action. She along with countless others are now regarded as notable millennials within the modern civil rights movement.

Newsome currently works as a field organizer in Charlotte, North Carolina for IgniteNC where her work is dedicated to uplifting under-resourced communities.

To follow her work visit her website BreeNewsome dot com or tweet her @breenewsome.

 

Bayard Rustin

Organizer, Activist: 1912 - 1987

"First, what is the dynamic idea of our time? It is the quest for human dignity expressed in many ways -- self determination, freedom from bigotry, and equality of opportunity. If we want human dignity above all else, we cannot get it while we are on our knees, we cannot get it if we are running away, we cannot get it if we are indifferent and unconcerned. "

Biography

Bayard Rustin was at the forefront of almost every progressive movement of the 20th century. Yet it’s possible that you have never heard of him.  One of the most successful organizers of his time, working for peace, labor, and Civil Rights, he organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Rustin traveled the globe, advocating for democracy and human rights wherever he touched down:  “When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.”  Though his legacy garners more attention all the time, his brilliant contributions were often erased due to the fact that he lived his life as an openly gay man in an era when homosexuality was considered a perversion.

Bayard Taylor Rustin was born March 17, 1912 in West Chester, PA to Florence Rustin and Archie Hopkins, but he was raised by his maternal grandparents, Janifer and Julia Rustin. Julia Rustin, an active member of the NAACP, and a Quaker, imparted the values to her grandson that would guide him for the rest of his life. He attended an integrated high school where he was a star athlete, amazed people with his beautiful singing voice, and was at the top of his class intellectually.

Following high school, Rustin attended the historically Black Wilberforce University in Ohio.  He continued his education at Cheyney (State) University, another Black university in Pennsylvania where he learned about peace activism and pacifism from the American Friends Service Committee. In the 1930s, he moved to live with a sister in Harlem and attend City College of New York. For the first time he was able to express his sexuality more fully, became active in the Young Communist League (YCL), the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) with A.J. Muste, and began a lifelong mentorship with A. Philip Randolph. His connection to communism, however, was short lived. Rustin’s pacifist beliefs and ongoing fight for Civil Rights didn’t fit within the Party, which called on members to cease all Civil Rights work during WWII. After he left the Party, Rustin would remain an anti-Communist for the rest of his life.

During 1941, Rustin worked to organize A. Philip Randolph’s proposed march on Washington to challenge the lack of employment opportunities for African Americans in the defense industry (the march was called off after President Roosevelt issued Executive order 8802, which desegregated the defense industry). Working with FOR,  Rustin’s commitment to the non-violent direct action tactics used by Mahatma Gandhi deepened.  The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), established by James Farmer, was a component of FOR, and Rustin worked with CORE to apply Gandhian tactics to the cause of racial justice.

Rustin’s work with FOR, his pacifism, his Quaker faith, and the U.S. entry into WWII put him on a collision course with the draft.  Rustin became a conscientious objector, and chose to go to prison rather than fight. He spent twenty-eight months behind bars where he led protests to advance integration and improved prison conditions.  

Once released from prison, he was part  -- in  1947 -- of an integrated team of 14 men who tested the Supreme Court decision (Morgan v. Virginia) that integrated interstate bus travel. This “Journey of Reconciliation,” which took place more than a decade before the more famous Freedom Riders of ‘60 and ‘61, traveled through the upper South. It ended violently and Rustin was arrested and sentenced to twenty-two days on a chain gang in North Carolina.

Randolph sent Rustin to Montgomery, Alabama in 1956 to investigate the bus boycott that was sparked by the arrest of Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks and organized under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then a young minister. By this time, Rustin had participated in several direct actions and traveled to India for an international conference on non-violent direct action.  Rustin convinced King to adopt the Gandhian principles that would become the cornerstone of the movement’s effectiveness.  

Rustin mentored King on nonviolent direct actions and worked closely with him to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  But in 1960, in order to stop a protest planned by Rustin and the SCLC at the Democratic Convention, the African American congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. threatened to spread the lie that Rustin and King were having an affair. King’s acquiescence to Powell’s threat damaged the relationship between Rustin and King. Said Rustin, “Bigotry's birthplace is the sinister back room of the mind where plots and schemes are hatched for the persecution and oppression of other human beings.”

As the Civil Rights Movement leaders began planning the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, A. Philip Randolph insisted that a successful event would require Rustin’s organizing genius.  Working tirelessly for eight weeks, Rustin brought approximately 250,000 people to Washington, DC, and provided King the national platform for his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.  A photograph of Randolph and Rustin, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, graced the cover of Life magazine.  

In 1964, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Rustin wrote “From Protest to Politics” in Commentary magazine.  He argued that the legal successes that came from the various protests throughout the South should be followed by deeper alignments with the Democratic Party and the labor movement, with the goal of linking civil rights to economic justice and entrenching the movement’s successes within established political institutions and processes. Additionally, he insisted that civil rights goals for African Americans would only succeed if they were included in a movement for economic justice for poor whites.

He used his position as the Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, established with a grant from the AFL-CIO,  to advance his political cause.  In order to do so he had to compromise some of his core values and subsequently lost many friends. For instance, to support President Johnson’s civil rights initiatives in the middle 1960s he did not protest the Vietnam War. Unlike Dr. King, Rustin thought he could separate racism and poverty from militarism and prioritize support for Civil Rights. Under criticism, Rustin said, “…I’m a pacifist to this extent:  I believe that the first and most important thing we can do is to discover the means of defending freedom that men can use.  It is ridiculous, in my view, to talk only about peace.”  

Though he never hid his sexuality, Rustin did not participate in the gay rights movement until later in life, and then, at the urging of his partner Walter Naegle.  Rustin advocated for New York City’s gay rights bill, which was approved by the city council in 1986. Rustin linked the causes of African American civil rights and LGBT rights, saying, “The barometer of people’s thinking [in the past] was the black community.  Today, the barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black, it’s the gay community.”

Bayard Rustin died of a heart attack on August 24, 1987, and is survived by his partner Walter Naegle.  Though there had been attempts to erase and/or minimize Rustin’s role in the history of the Civil Rights Movement, biographers like Jervis Anderson, Daniel Levine, and John D’Emilio, and projects like the documentary “Brother Outsider,” have ensured that Rustin’s legacy will not be lost.  These projects document a remarkable man who was shaped by his deep integrity and courage, as well as his determination to advance the freedom of all people. In 2006, the newest high school in West Chester, PA was named for Rustin, and in 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  On March 8, 2016, Rustin’s New York City residence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the few listings that expressly recognizes LGBTQ history.

 

Pauli Murray

Attorney, Minister, Author: 1910 - 1985

"And since as a human being I cannot allow myself to be fragmented into a Negro at one time, a woman at another, or a worker at another, I must find a unifying principle in all these movements to which I can adhere... This, it seems to me, is not only good politics but may be the price of survival. "

Biography

“As an American I inherit the magnificent tradition of an endless march toward freedom and toward the dignity of all mankind,” wrote Pauli Murray in 1945.  Within every community there are those who refuse to conform to standards imposed on them. Some of these, by sheer force of will, make sure their voices are heard in support of the “march toward freedom”.  Activist, writer, attorney and Episcopal priest Pauli Murray demanded to be heard.  Yet, in spite of her myriad contributions to the struggle for Civil Rights for both women and African Americans, Murray has remained, for too long, on the historical periphery.

Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray was born to William and Agnes (Fitzgerald) Murray on November 20, 1910 in Baltimore, Maryland.  But by the time Murray reached adolescence, she had lost both her parents and was raised by her maternal grandparents (Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald) and her maternal aunt (Pauline Fitzgerald Dame) in Durham, North Carolina.  After finishing high school at the historically Black, Hillsdale High School in Durham, Murray moved to New York City to continue her education and improve her chances of getting into college.  Because she was female she could not attend her first choice, Columbia University (the first women wouldn’t receive diplomas from Columbia’s undergraduate program until 1987).  Unable to afford Columbia’s sister school Barnard College,  Murray enrolled at Hunter College (which Murray would call “the poor girl’s Radcliffe”), where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1933.

During the Great Depression, Murray worked both with the Women’s Auxiliary of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and with the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  She became a member of the peace and justice organization, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and in 1940, fifteen years prior to Rosa Parks’ protest of Alabama’s bus segregation law, Murray and fellow FOR member Adelene McBean were arrested for refusing to give up their seats on a segregated bus in Petersburg, Virginia.  Inspired to study law as a means to address injustice, Murray applied to the University of North Carolina School of Law but was denied admission on the basis of her race.  Following in her father’s footsteps, Murray enrolled at Howard University’s law school in 1941, becoming the only woman in her class.  At Howard, Murray experienced sexism and coined the term “Jane Crow” to describe the discrimination she faced as a woman.

Murray finished first in her class at Howard Law School. Though it was customary for top students to continue their legal studies at Harvard Law School with the assistance of the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship program, Harvard rejected her because of her gender.  Undeterred, Murray continued her legal studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  After graduating from Berkeley, Murray was hired as a Deputy Attorney General for the state of California, a first for an African American regardless of gender.  

In her 1951 book, States’ Laws on Race and Color, Murray offered a definitive framework for challenging state segregation laws. Thurgood Marshall, then the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, cited her book as critical to attorneys working on Civil Rights cases; it was of particular value to Marshall’s team in preparation for the landmark Brown v Board school desegregation case in 1954.

In 1956, Murray published Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family,  a biographical study of her family in North Carolina. A companion volume, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, was more autobiographical and was published posthumously in 1987, two years after Murray’s died.

Murray left the United States to teach law at the University of Ghana in 1960.  She returned to the US to earn a doctorate of Juridical Science at Yale University in 1965, the first African American to achieve that degree.  She then taught at Benedict College, a historically Black college in Columbia, South Carolina and, from 1968-1973, at Brandeis University as a professor of American Studies.

As a law student at Howard, Murray had joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and worked directly with future Civil Rights era luminaries like James Farmer and Bayard Rustin.  At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Murray offered a critique of the 1963 March on Washington (which was organized primarily by her CORE colleague, Bayard Rustin):  “It is indefensible to call a national march on Washington and send out a call which contains the name of not a single woman leader.”  Murray extended her critique to the broader Civil Rights Movement as a whole:  “I have been increasingly perturbed over the blatant disparity between the major role which Negro women have played and are playing in the crucial grassroots levels of our struggle and the minor role of leadership they have been assigned in the national policy-making decisions.”

Murray fully recognized the problem of gender discrimination, not only within the Civil Rights Movement, but also within society as a whole, noting that “Black women, historically, have been doubly victimized by the twin immoralities of Jim Crow and Jane Crow.”  Murray added that “Black women, faced with these dual barriers, have often found that sex bias is more formidable than racial bias.”  Due to her work on gender issues, President John F. Kennedy appointed Murray to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.  In 1965, Murray co-authored (with Mary Eastwood) an article that appeared in the George Washington Law Review entitled “Jane Crow and the Law:  Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which highlighted comparisons between laws that discriminated on the basis of race and those that discriminated on the basis of gender, arguing that the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could be used to combat both forms of discrimination.  The following year, Murray became a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

After her years at Brandeis University, Murray switched paths and embarked on a new career in the Episcopal Church.  Murray began her studies at General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1973 and earned a Master’s degree in Divinity in 1976.  The following year, Murray was ordained (at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC) as an Episcopal priest, a first for an African American woman.  Murray served primarily in Baltimore, but also in Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she died from pancreatic cancer on July 1, 1985.

Murray was a Renaissance woman who deserved greater recognition in her own time.  However, it seems true that Murray, who was open about her romantic relationships with women (though she never self-identified as a lesbian) and unapologetic about her non-gender conforming appearance, was marginalized by the mainstream re-telling of the Civil Rights Movement history due to her personal preferences and characteristics, something that also happened to Murray’s openly gay contemporary, Bayard Rustin.  As the nation’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community grows, we are now able to learn more about the full and rich lives lived by members of that community who, like Murray, made important contributions to American history.

Dr. Rev. William Barber II

Minister, Organizer: b. 1963

"Our concern is the moral fabric of our society. It's about a deep vision of society that says we must look at two guiding stars. The first is our state and national Constitutions, with their insistence on the common good, the good of the whole, and establishing equal justice under the law. And the second guiding star comes from the best of all our moral and ethical traditions, loving your neighbor and doing justice. It is from these two perspectives that public policy ought to be developed. We should ask are policies constitutionally consistent, morally defensible, and economically sane. "

Biography

“We have a new demographic emerging that is changing the South.  The one thing they don’t want to see is us crossing over racial lines and class lines and gender lines and labor lines.  When this coalition comes together, you’re going to see a New South.”  The Reverend Doctor William J. Barber II offered this vision of the New South in a 2013 interview with the North Carolina based, independent newspaper Indy Week. The observation stays true to his upbringing in a family committed to change.  

Barber, born in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 30, 1963 (two days after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom), is the son of parents who, in the spirit of helping to build a “New South” in the 20th century, moved from Indiana back to his father’s home of Washington County, North Carolina.  Barber’s father served as the first African American teacher in the county’s white high school and his mother served as the same school’s first African American office manager.  That change-agent spirit and desire to improve the broader community drives Barber’s activism.  “I grew up under the tutelage of not understanding how to be a Christian without being concerned about justice and the larger community,” he says.

Barber graduated from Washington County’s Plymouth High School and matriculated at North Carolina Central University, a historically Black university in Durham.  He earned a Master of Divinity from Duke University and a Doctorate from Drew University in Public Policy and Pastoral Care. Barber married Rebecca McLean Barber and the couple has five children.  For more than two decades, Barber has served as the pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina.  And in 2005, he was elected president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  

Through his work with the NAACP, Barber began focusing on his concern “about justice and the larger community.” As he worked to re-energize the chapter, he began to develop a political and social justice agenda that appealed not only to NAACP members but to progressive organizations throughout North Carolina.  In 2006, Barber convened a meeting of several progressive advocacy groups in North Carolina, including organizations such as Equality North Carolina, the AFL-CIO and the North Carolina Council of Churches. That meeting led to the creation of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ).  In 2007, thousands of North Carolinians signed onto the HKonJ 14 Point People’s Agenda, which would include reform ideas such as raising the state minimum wage and linking future increases to inflation, ensuring health coverage for everyone, and expanding public financing of statewide elections. Some of these ideas were turned into bills and introduced to the state legislature.  

As a student of political science and political history, Barber recognized the importance of building coalitions in order to make change happen.  In the idea of “fusion” politics, something that was particularly successful in post-Reconstruction-era North Carolina, Barber imagined a real vehicle for progressive ideas that could improve the lives of  a majority of North Carolinians. In its 19th century form, “fusion” politics in North Carolina represented the successful collaboration between members of the state’s Republicans and Populists, particularly in the elections of 1894, 1896 and 1898 when the “Fusionists” racially diverse coalition successful wrested control of the state from the divisive conservatives of the Democratic Party.  Though ultimately defeated, that earlier movement inspired Barber to see a way to bridge racial, economic, religious and gender divides in the 21st century, particularly following the 2008 election of Barack Obama who had won the state’s popular vote.

Barber recognized that Obama’s presidency had the potential of creating “a third Reconstruction (the first Reconstruction was from 1865-1877, and was followed by what historians have deemed the “second” Reconstruction, which is essentially the Civil Rights Movement during the mid-20th century).”  At the same time, however, Barber noted that the North Carolina conservatives’ “…attack on voting rights starts immediately after President Obama is elected,” in response to the threat of progressive change. Barber’s 21st century “Fusionists” worked to stymie these aggressive tactics, while continuing to log legislative victories.  Yet with the 2013 Republican takeover of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, the progressive political bulwark that the “Fusionists” helped build broke down and conservatives cleared the way to implementing an agenda to reverse many of the legislative victories in North Carolina that had expanded voting rights, ensured women’s reproductive rights and maintained proactive school integration policies.

The “Fusionist” response to the regressive legislation that emerged from Raleigh would grow into the “Moral Mondays Movement”, with the charismatic Barber at the helm.   

“Every piece of legislation should pass this test.  How does it benefit the good of the whole?” says Barber.  On Monday, April 29, 2013, Barber organized a civil disobedience action at that North Carolina state legislature, calling on the participation of the organizations that he and the NAACP had, for six years, bringing into a progressive coalition. The next Monday, scores of marchers arrived to continue protesting the laws being passed through the state legislature.  On February 8, 2014, thousands of protesters gathered at the “Mass Moral March” to show their support for the Moral Mondays movement and the principles it stands for.  “Do not forget this is a movement, not a moment,” Barber reminded the marchers as it brought atheists, Jews, Muslims, Christians,  gays, straights, Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, white, black, Latinos, Asians and others together to combat institutionalized privilege and racism.  As a result of the attention garnered by North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement, other states, particularly Southern states, have developed or are developing their own “Fusionist” movements in response to conservative legislation at the state level.

Barber notes that, “when they cut health care, that’s not a Black issue; that’s a people issue.  When they cut unemployment that hurts everybody.” Barber’s ability to simplify issues with his commanding moral authority and his astute recognition of an old and successful North Carolina political coalition to successfully promote progressive ideas has the potential to show disparate progressive organizations throughout the United States a path to building coalitions around common goals.  He often closes his speeches by having the crowd chant with him, “Forward together, not one step back!”

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