Vincent Harding is an author, historian, and activist who was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem and the Bronx. After graduating from the City College of New York, he earned a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. Harding spent two years in the army, after which he lived in Chicago for six years, serving as lay minister in churches on Chicago’s south side and pursuing a doctorate at the University of Chicago. In the 1960s Harding was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement, assisting the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the SNCC, and the Congress of Racial Equality throughout the South. Harding went on to teach at Spelman College, Pendle Hill Study Center, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. He was the first director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and served as director and chairperson of The Institute of the Black World. Among Harding’s publications are Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero (1996), Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement (1990), There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (1981), and The Other American Revolution (1980). He was also senior academic consultant to the award-winning PBS television series, “Eyes on the Prize.” Harding is professor emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation at the Iliff School of Theology, and is the co-founder and chair of the Veterans of Hope Project, an interdisciplinary initiative on religion, culture, and grassroots democracy.
from Is America Possible? A Letter to My Young Compatriots on the Journey of Hope
Some years ago, I came across one of the most intriguing book titles that I have ever seen. It was set forth in the form of a question: Is America Possible? Even without delving into its contents, I was struck by the playful seriousness of the inquiry, the invitation to imagine and explore the shape and meaning of a “possible” America, an America still coming into existence. The idea itself, of course, was not new, simply its formulation. But since then, everywhere that I have paused to reflect on the powerful, flooding movement of the black struggle for freedom in America, I have been called back to that title, to its query and challenge. For it is a question that has always been at the heart of the African American quest for democracy in this land. And wherever we have seen these freedom seekers, community organizers, and artisans of democracy, standing their ground, calling others to the struggle, advancing into danger, and creating new realities, it is clear that they are taking the question seriously; shaping their own answers, and testing the possibilities of their dreams.
Is America possible? Yes, they say, sometimes testifying to their vision with great eloquence: “I have a dream that one day . . .” Sometimes joining their vision to magnificent biblical images, they proclaim, “I’ve been to the mountaintop. I’ve seen the Promised Land.” Or in the marvelously mundane messages of their freedom songs, they express great hope: “If you don’t see me at the back of the bus / And you can’t find me nowhere / Just come on up to the front of the bus, / and I’ll be riding up there.”
- “An Open Letter to President Obama.” Yes! Magazine. 2 June 2011.
- Interview by Jeannie Choi. Sojourners. January 2010.
Let Freedom Ring | April 15, 2008
Welcome And Plenary Lecture | Woke Up This Morning: The Creativity of the Freedom Songs