Harry Belafonte Suing Estate of Martin Luther King Jr.

Harry B and MLK

Singer Harry Belafonte brought suit against the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. in the and city of New York on Tuesday over the outcome of three papers he attempted to sell off at an auction. He wants to have returned the documents he says he obtained through his friendship with the civil-rights leader and that he wanted to auction the items off for charity.
Belafonte said he had previously assessed the total worth of the documents to be at least $1.3 million and supposedly said he wanted to give the profits away.

The lawsuit which is located inside a Manhattan federal court is seeking unnamed reparations and a court affirmation that Belafonte is the rightful owner. He struck the claim against Dr. King’s daughter Bernice and the King estate to try and finally fix a long ongoing dispute over the papers which he attempted to auction back in 2008. That was when suddenly Bernice King stepped in and said the items had not been acquired in the proper way.

The documents are said to be a summary of a Vietnam War speech by King, summaries to a speech King never was able to give in Tennessee and also a letter of condolence the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson to Dr. King’s wife after the assassination of the civil rights leader in 1968.

As stated in the complaint, Belafonte was arranging to auction off the articles in 2008 when Dr. King’s estate “astonishingly” obstructed this from happening.

The lawsuit named the close bond between Belafonte and King, explaining that the two of them had worked on policies and teamed up on issues which would change American society while they forged a profound and lasting personal friendship.
It stated that King and his widow, Coretta Scott King, had given Belafonte numerous items and that it was noted Mrs. King, who passed away in 2006, declared that Belafonte, in her autobiography,  whenever something happened in the King family to get them into trouble or when tragedy struck them, Harry was always there to come to their aid. She also had written how his generous heart had always been wide open.

Belafonte stated he gave the documents for auction to Sotheby’s Inc. and the auction authority been holding them awaiting an agreement of the problems between King’s estate and Belafonte.

Mrs. Johnson’s letter was presented to Belafonte by Mrs. King herself about 10 years or so ago after she had seen the huge collection of historic documents he had up on a wall inside his home, and really admired them, the lawsuit said.

It added that King often gave drafts and duplicates of his many speeches, working papers and various correspondences to his friends and other fellow activists for civil rights . It also stated that his estate had made a series of very distressing and illegitimate challenges to the gifts Dr. King gave in modern years such as trying to get back materials that Dr. King himself donated to others. One such ordeal had included a case this year in which an elderly 87-year-old ex-secretary was asked to return various items given to her by Dr. King. A committee panel allowed her to keep the items.

The lawyer for the Atlanta-based King estate, Miles J. Alexander, said he had yet to see or look over the lawsuit.
He stated he could make no comment at the present time about the suit Belafonte was bringing against the King estate in New York.

Written by: Kimberly Ruble

NY Daily News

Washington Post

Chicago Tribune


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