Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II’s PPro-sponsored visit to the Princeton campus took place on the very same day that undergraduates decided to hold a sit-in at President Eisgruber’s office in Nassau Hall, protesting what they saw as on-campus manifestations of racial injustice. Those complaints are described in “Contesting Wilson’s Legacy,” by Marcia Brown ’19, in the November 2015 issue of The Princeton Progressive, an undergraduate publication supported in part by PPro, available here. The sit-in, covered by The New York Times here and by The Daily Princetonian here, occasioned unexpected but highly positive interactions between the students and the civil rights leader.
Shortly after his planned lunch at Prospect House with faculty and staff from the African American Studies and Religion Departments, Barber arrived at Nassau Hall, where he encouraged the students in Eisgruber’s office to continue holding their moral position.
Later, Barber spoke with a group of about 45 students at Terrace Club about the Moral Mondays movement and the need for what he called a Third Reconstruction. Dinner afterwards was interrupted by a call for students to assemble outside Nassau Hall to show support for the students inside; a large group of students left to participate.
Rev. Barber’s audience in the University Chapel in the early evening, while well-enough attended, was diminished in size by the fact that many students who would have been there were instead at Nassau Hall. They missed an inspiring initial song session led by Theomusicologist Yara Allen, Barber’s assistant. That was followed by Barber’s thought-provoking and passionate lecture entitled AMERICA NOW AND THE NEED FOR A THIRD RECONSTRUCTION AND REVOLUTION OF MORAL VALUES, a recording of which is available here.
The planned question-and-answer period was replaced by a trek over to Nassau Hall by Barber and most of his audience, to show solidarity once again with the students who were still inside. Barber once again met with them, encouraging them to have the strength to continue their moral protest. He set that protest into its institutional context with this encouragement: “They shouldn’t have let you into Princeton if they wanted you to be passive.”
Barber later gave an interview to The Daily Princetonian which is available here.
And so Barber’s visit did not exactly fit the mold of what had been planned, but most felt that, in the bigger picture, it had been far more successful than anyone could have predicted.
Barber’s new book, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, analyzes and describes his call for a Third Reconstruction. It is available here. Use the coupon code FTSHIP15 for free shipping (expires 31 December 2015).
Special thanks to the University Press Club’s blog describing these events, with pictures (two of which are reproduced below), which is available here.