Iliff Mourns Loss of Dr. Vincent Harding
May 20, 2014
Iliff School of Theology Mourns Loss of Dr. Vincent Harding
Civil Rights Activist, Emeritus Professor of Religion & Social Transformation, Co-Founder of the Veterans of Hope Project, Author, Engaged Citizen & Commentator
By Greta Gloven
(DENVER) – The Iliff School of Theology mourns the death of Dr. Vincent Gordon Harding, professor emeritus of religion and social transformation, civil rights activist, author, co-founder of the Veterans of Hope Project, engaged citizen, and commentator. Harding died yesterday at the age of 82 as the result of a carotid artery aneurysm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A memorial service is being planned.
“We will greatly miss our brother Vincent and the wisdom he shared with us. His life-giving work of helping others to find their voice when they thought it impossible was a gift to generations of Americans and many abroad,” said Thomas V. Wolfe, president and chief executive officer. “We have not only lost a friend and teacher, but a life giver to shaping the movement of history. We are thankful that his work lives on in the many lives he touched. His inspirational voice lives on in all of us.”
Harding, born in Harlem in New York City in 1931, was educated at City College of New York, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago. He began his life’s work as member of the U.S. Army from 1953-1955 and as pastor in Chicago during 1955-1961. From 1961-1965, Harding was a representative to the Southern Freedom Movement from the Mennonite Service Committee. Working with his first wife, the late Rosemarie Freeney Harding, he was based in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Harding’s worked with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Movement as a civil rights teacher/activist and negotiator in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Harding assisted King in many ways, but most notably in the writing of King’s 1967 “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” the well-known speech against the Vietnam War delivered just one year to the day before King was assassinated.
While in Atlanta, Harding later served as the first director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in 1968 and one year later established and directed the Institute of the Black World. The Harding’s also co-founded Mennonite House, an interracial voluntary service center and Movement gathering place.
Throughout the 1960’s, they traveled the South as reconcilers, counselors and participants assisting the antisegregation campaigns of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, and many others.
Professor Harding joined the Iliff faculty in 1981 as professor of religion and social transformation where he retired in 2004, but remained actively teaching and sharing his knowledge until his death. He was a senior consultant for the PBS documentary series on civil rights, “Eyes on the Prize.” Harding also served as a visiting faculty member or distinguished lecturer at many colleges throughout the U.S., including: Drew University, Spelman College, Swarthmore College, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, the Moton Center for Independent Studies, Duke University, and the Pendle Hill Study Center.
As the co-founder of the Veterans of Hope Project in 1997, Harding and his late wife, Rosemarie, began a multifaceted educational initiative on religion, culture and participatory democracy. Through a video interview series and a comprehensive curriculum, the Project emphasizes workshops and training in compassionate leadership development in addition to a public symposium series.
Along with his present wife, Aljosie Aldrich Harding, he was one of the founding members of the National Council of Elders, an organization focused on sharing the wisdom of elders with younger social activists. They worked as a team in organizing his extended visit to Morehouse College where he served as Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection Scholar in Residence in 2012. This residency involved bringing a diverse cadre of renowned scholars and activists to the campus and facilitating a dialogue between them, Morehouse students, and the larger community. The Harding’s served together as peacemakers with the Dorothy Cotton Institute, traveling to Palestine/Israel in 2012 to encourage and discover ways of bringing peace in the Middle East.
Professor Harding was the author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books and thousands of articles. His most noted works include: There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement, and America Will Be.
Harding is survived by his wife, Aljosie, his daughter Rachel, son Jonathan, step children, Ohaji Yarborough, Ayanna Yarborough, and Amber Bailey (husband Rodney), eight step grandchildren, and an extensive extended family of nieces, nephews, and friends.
A memorial service is currently being planned. Messages of condolence may be sent to: The Harding Family, c/o The Veterans of Hope Project at The Iliff School of Theology, 2201 S. University Blvd., Denver, Colorado 80210.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be to: The Veterans of Hope Project, The Iliff School of Theology, 2201 S. University Blvd., Denver, Colorado 80210 or online at http://www.veteransofhope.org/funders/.