The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear discusses how the powerful Moral Monday movement developed and how it binds a multiracial, multi-issue coalition together for a common liberation agenda.

The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber may be a familiar face to activists or watchers of the ineffable Joy Reid’s AM Joy news show, but most people were introduced to him when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention with an electrifying speech, explaining that many fundamental issues are not issues of left versus right, but right versus wrong.

Barber’s theology comes direct from the text of the Bible, from Micah 6:8, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I think it is interesting that is also a verse often quoted by Hillary Clinton. It articulates the requirement that people of faith do service in the cause of justice and inspires many liberal and progressive activists.

Barber in his search for a theological foundation for justice and social activism, contrasts Reinhold Niebuhr’s advocacy of practical theology (Christian Realism) with Stanley Hauerwas’  focus on the church as witness which Barber called Ecclesial Realism and found both of them lacking, finding a middle way. He tells of his first struggle for justice, in support of workers who were seeking to organize, and its abject failure, teaching him the importance of uniting the broadest possible community. From here, he tells the story of his organizing experience and lessons learned that culminate in the amazing organizing they are doing in North Carolina.


The Third Reconstruction is a restorative book to read in these dire and depressing days when the forces of hatred and bigotry think they are triumphant. Although written before the election, Barber gives many examples of how losses are often precursors to success and how success provokes reaction. It is a reminder that the ferocity of racism unleashed this year is a reaction to growing awareness of systemic racism and growing power of people of color at the ballot box.

The Third Reconstruction is very steeped in theology and faith. Barber naturally incorporates Biblical references in every thought, speech, and action. Barber usefully addresses how a multi-issue coalition can work together, bringing together people who do not necessarily agree on everything, uniting pro-choice activists with faith-based  ministries that oppose abortion, for example. It is worth reading just for the examples of how to  prevent the frequent deployment of wedge issues that divide natural allies.

Barber finishes the book with fourteen point bullet list of lessons for organizers who also want to move forward together with a multiracial, multi-issue coalition. The Afterword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove describes the writing process and their long friendship, a friendship that exemplifies that reaching across the aisle, forming alliances that seem unlikely at first.

This is a small, but powerful book and well worth reading for activists who believe the only way forward is working together for justice. Post-election analysts are eager to suggest turning from racial and social justice issues to work on a populist class struggle. Barber reminds us that justice cannot be compartmentalized.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing.