Today we spend the hour remembering the pioneering historian, theologian and civil rights activist Dr. Vincent Harding. He died on May 19 at the age of 82 in Philadelphia. He lived in Denver, but was in Pennsylvania where he had been teaching at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center. Harding was a close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wrote King’s famous antiwar speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.” King delivered the address at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 — exactly one year before he was assassinated in Memphis.
“By the last years of his life, [King] was saying that America had to deal with what he called triple evils: the evil of racism, the evil of materialism and the evils of militarism,” said Harding in this Democracy Now! interview in 2008. “And he saw those three very much connected to each other.”
After King was assassinated, Harding became the first director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and of the Institute of the Black World. He later became a professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Iliff Professor George “Tink” Tinker described Harding as “the most important civil rights leader not everyone has heard of.” Democracy Now! interviewed Vincent Harding on April 1, 2008, three days before the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination. The interview took place during Barack Obama’s historic run for president. Hear Harding in his own words and an excerpt of King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.