An Open Letter: In Love and Sadness on the Passing of Our Brother

To North Carolinians on the side of truth and justice, members of the media, family and friends of the movement, 

Re: The Passing of Our Brother Darryl Hunt


This weekend North Carolina lost one of her foremost freedom fighters in the passing of Dr. Darryl Hunt. I along with the North Carolina NAACP family lost not only a freedom fighter, but also a former colleague, brother and friend. The state robbed Darryl of 19 years of his life by imprisoning him for a rape and murder he did not commit. The case goes down in infamy as one of the most thoroughly corrupt episodes in the saga of the deeply racist criminal justice system in our state. However, in his twelve short years out of prison, Darryl accomplished more good in the world than most can hope to in a lifetime.

Those who heard Darryl speak, or worked with him in the grassroots, know that Darryl made sure his bondage was not in vain. In addition to committing his time and resources to building the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, where he worked with hundreds of formerly incarcerated men and women, and fought for the exoneration of others falsely imprisoned, he also led a life of prophetic witness to the rampant racism in police departments, district attorney’s offices and the courts.


Darryl was there in 2009 to push through the Racial Justice Act, which the North Carolina NAACP and our HKonJ partners count as one of the greatest legislative victories for criminal justice in recent history. In 2010, he joined the staff of the North Carolina NAACP as the founder and director of the Anti-Death Penalty Project. He helped lead our efforts to defend the RJA as long as possible so that the cases could get into court before the extremists in the General Assembly gutted and repealed the bill. When the damning report on the practices of intentional perjury emerged out of the SBI labs, Darryl traveled the state on our behalf educating the branches and communities on the “Swecker Report”. He led court “jury watches” during capital trials where we know black jurors are struck from the rolls at disproportionate rates. Ever since his first plenary in 2010, we’ve always reserved a spot for Darryl to speak at our State Convention.

And none of this is to mention his role as a national leader in innocence projects and movements. For his work, Duke University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2012.

Darryl was a wounded healer in the greatest sense. I can remember him often saying that he has forgiven those who put him in jail when they knew he was innocent, but he has not forgotten. For Darryl, it was a spiritual matter. He would say that he did not know how to ask others or God for forgiveness if he was not willing to forgive those who imprisoned him. He was not going to let them imprison him again with bitterness. And neither would he let them keep him from fighting for justice.

Darryl traveled the nation and the world with his witness that injustice does not have the last word. For a generation of activists, Darryl was hope incarnate. Justice was his calling. Courage and love was his answer. We pledge to you brother Darryl, that your spirit lives on in each of us. Those you touched will touch others and others as we keep our hands on the freedom plow. Let it be so. 

In Sadness and A Deepening Love for Justice, 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of NC NAACP

Al McSurely, Former Legal Redress Chair, NC NAACP

Rob Stephens, Former Associate Director, NC NAACP Anti-Death Penalty Project

NC NAACP Staff, Executive Committee, Branch Leaders, Members and Partners in the Forward Together Moral Fusion Movement

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