Vincent Harding speaking

Vincent Harding

Historian of Social Change

Friend of and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Vincent Harding (1931 - 2014) has been called nothing less than a “national treasure” by On Being’s Krista Tippett. Dr. Harding’s involvement with the Center spanned nearly two decades. Significantly, he was the author of the first draft of King’s Riverside Church speech of 1967, also known as “Beyond Vietnam.” In it, Harding helped King make the case that a commitment to nonviolence in the American Civil Rights movement required a condemnation of the suffering the war was imposing on the peasants there, noting that it is the poor who suffer most from violence between nations. Among Dr. Harding’s books are Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, which urges us to consider the full range of King’s commitments, including economic justice for all races. Another key Harding title is Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement. Dr. Harding was also a key academic advisor for the seminal documentary series “Eyes on the Prize.” His association with the Center goes back to 1996, when he lectured on “Martin Luther King and the Future of America.” He was a speaker at three Ikeda Forums: 2008’s “Living With Mortality: How Our Experiences With Death Change Us”; 2010’s “This Noble Experiment: Developing the Democratic Spirit”; and 2013’s “We the People: Who Are We and What Is Our Work?”. At that Forum he urged us: “Don’t be afraid of dreams.The capacity to dream is an absolutely human capacity.” Further, we should also understand that a big part of the work for those of us “who believe in freedom” is that “we cannot rest from dreaming.” Most of all, “don’t let anybody push us so far down that we are unwilling or unable to dream—for ourselves and for our neighbors.” In 2013, he and Daisaku Ikeda published America Will Be! Conversations on Hope, Freedom, and Democracy. During his long career he served as co-chairperson of the social unity group Veterans of Hope Project and as Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

Photo by Marilyn Humphries