The late Vincent Harding, historian, activist, author, and mentor to many in the quest to expand freedom and justice, was also a friend and confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, Dr. Harding drafted King's Riverside Church speech, which famously spoke out against the Viet Nam War. Dr. Harding was also a friend of and inspiration to the Ikeda Center. Here are some quotes from his 1996 interview with the Center that offer acute insight into King's values and motivations, as well as his own. These passages were selected by our current Northeastern University co-op student, Natalie Evans.
“What he [MLK] was clear about was that change of a revolutionary depth was necessary in America. The other thing he was clear about was that if it was going to be real change, and not simply cosmetic, it had to be accomplished nonviolently. These two things, which to many people, maybe most people, seem in total contradiction, were what he was trying to think through and work through — a way of creating nonviolent revolutionary change.”
“King was really calling for a redemptive movement among black people themselves and among all black people’s allies, so that as we rethought our own values, our own vision, our own hope, as we asked ourselves, “What is the kind of America that we are really committed to? What do we want?”, we could shape weapons of struggle that would be consistent with the vision we’re trying to create.”
“The human experience is such that, if I am deeply involved in a struggle for democracy in the former Czechoslovakia, or in Tiananmen Square, or in Johannesburg, or in Birmingham, I am profoundly affected by it. The fact that people experienced these things in very palpable and profound ways means that these truths now exist permanently in the universe. Energy does not go out of existence. Truth is an energy that will find its manifestation and expression in some other way, in some other place, in other people.”
And here is a moving Harding quote from an interview with the SGI Quarterly that ran in 2014. In Harding's view, Dr. King is important to the world because he was
full of compassion, creativity and commitment to the weakest of us; ready to inspire the weakest to understand that within their being they have great strength, great capacity, and ready to receive from them great inspiration because of their love and respect for him. So I see all that as a part of the meaning of my brother and the courage of my brother; and in this time of my country's interminable wars I see him as someone who would never be silent about the inhumanity of war and the necessity to open ourselves to our humanity — never to purchase our security at the cost of the insecurity of others.”