The Riverside Church has been a focal point of global and national activism since its inception. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached six times in this church, between 1961 and 1967. The last time was his famous anti-Vietnam War sermon, “Beyond Vietnam, A Time to Break Silence”, also known as the Riverside Church speech, on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. An excerpt from this speech: "Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor. [...] For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent." Despite a lot of public criticism, from newspapers and friends also, Dr. King continued to attack the Vietnam War on both moral and economic grounds.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan spoke in the Riverside Church after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu also have spoken here. It is the tallest church in the United States (392 feet /119 m), built between 1927-1930 and situated at one of the highest points of New York City, overlooking the Hudson River and 122nd Street. Reverend Ellen Robison, Minister of Worship & Arts, accepted the statue on behalf of The Riverside Church. The statue will be on display next to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial wall.