POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — Vincent Harding, former speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and historian of the civil rights movement, will deliver the 2008 Frederic C. Wood Jr. Memorial Lecture at Vassar on Wednesday, October 29. Harding will speak on “The Obama Opportunity: Calling All Midwives,” starting at 5:30 pm in the Spitzer Auditorium of Sanders Hall.
A theologian, historian, and activist, Harding is also an accomplished author. His writing includes a collection of essays on the rise of the civil rights movement, Hope and History, which the New York Times praised for providing a “blueprint for inspiring freedom and responsibility in the coming-of-age generation.” The Washington Post similarly lauded Harding’s There is a River, which uses a river as a metaphor for the struggle for emancipation, as “a lyrical and rich volume.”
In addition, Harding has contributed to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications, and has served as senior academic consultant to Eyes on the Prize, an award-winning 14-hour PBS documentary series about the civil rights movement.
Harding was born and raised in Harlem, and graduated from the City College of New York with a bachelor of arts degree in history, and then proceeded to Columbia University for his master’s degree in journalism. He completed his PhD in history at the University of Chicago.
Harding met Dr. King when he visited Atlanta as part of an interracial pastoral team in 1958. Harding accepted the civil rights leader’s invitation to move to Atlanta and work on civil rights reform, marking the beginning a close friendship between the two. Their relationship eventually saw Harding write Dr. King’s famous April 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War as a “far deeper malady” that would lead the United States into future conflicts.
After Dr. King’s death in 1968, Harding worked with the late activist’s wife to establish the King Center in Atlanta, and served as its first director. In 1981, the Illiff School of Theology in Denver appointed Harding as professor of religion and social transformation, and he served in that position until his retirement in 2004.
The Frederic C. Wood Lecture is held annually by The Department of Religion, and brings important and innovative thinkers in many aspects of religion to Vassar. The Africana Studies Program and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will sponsor Harding’s lecture, which is free and open to the public.
People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Directions to the Vassar Campus in the Town of Poughkeepsie are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.