Common Read: The Third Reconstruction

Third Reconstruction cover

This year the Unitarian Universalist Association has chosen The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, as its Common Read.

Reverend William J. Barber gained national attention last summer as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. He is the founder of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, and a passionate advocate for what he calls Fusion Politics, or how groups with very different interests can find common goals and learn to work together to achieve them.

The divisions we are sensing among our fellow Americans are very real, and seem to be widening in the wake of the presidential election. It seems very hard to find any common ground. And there is a reason for it.

The divisions have long been deliberately fostered by those with political and economic power. In The Third Reconstruction, Reverend Barber shares the history of efforts in this country to divide and conquer. In order to maintain political and economic power, those who have it have deliberately sought, throughout our history, to create gaps between people who should have shared interests. Since colonial times, landowners and factory owners have understood that if the poor of all races unified, they would be a force hard to control. As a result, the powerful have intentionally driven wedges between poor whites and poor blacks, emphasizing their differences rather than what they have in common.

We are seeing the fruits of this today, as a wealthy businessman has been elected president by assuring working class voters that he has their best interests at heart, while at the same time blaming much of the country’s problems on immigrants and refugees. He is creating divisions between people who have more in common than they realize.

Reverend Barber takes us through the past 150 years of post-Civil War history, pointing out the patterns of when growth in civil rights is followed by a period of conservative backlash. He comments: “…we must be clear: every stride toward freedom in U. S. history has been met with this same backlash.”

This spring I will be inviting members of the congregation to read The Third Reconstruction and meet to discuss it. We welcome you to join us: dates and times will be posted on the church website at

-Rev. Janet Parsons

The purpose of this blog is to raise topics for dialogue and discussion. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church or its board of managers.


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