King auction canceled, archives saved for Atlanta
By Claudia Parsons
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sermons, books, notes and speeches by
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be spared the auction block
next week because the civil rights icon’s alma mater, Morehouse
College in Atlanta, has bought them.
Sotheby’s auction house had estimated the value of the
collection at up to $30 million ahead of the auction that had
been set for Friday, some five months after the death of King’s
widow, Coretta Scott King.
King’s heirs had tried to sell it to the U.S. Library of
Congress in 1999. But the deal fell through, and the auction
had raised concerns about where the historic archive would end
Sotheby’s said late on Friday that Morehouse College, the
historically black institution from which King graduated in
1948, purchased it for an undisclosed sum.
“This is a wonderful outcome for this collection,” Dexter
King, son of the murdered leader, said in a statement. “I know
my mother would have been happy to see the collection housed
permanently in Atlanta, which always meant so much to her and
to our family.”
The King estate runs the King Center in Atlanta, which
includes his crypt, a museum and a gift shop. The center has
been the focus of financial and management disputes among
King’s four children.
The archive includes a draft of the 1963 “I Have a Dream”
speech, his library including books that King annotated while
reading, and memorabilia such as plane tickets and suitcases.
Among the more than 10,000 manuscripts and books in the
collection are his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and a
telegram inviting King to President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the crowning achievements
of the American civil rights movement.
“It is great that Atlanta is embracing its own history,”
Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta said in a statement issued by
Sotheby’s Vice Chairman David Redden said he was glad the
archive would be returned to Atlanta.
“This historic archive is of extraordinary significance and
the King Estate and Sotheby’s had hoped — and worked hard to
ensure — that its disposition would permit access to the
public and to scholars. This has now been achieved,” he said.
The collection will remain on public display at Sotheby’s
in New York until Thursday. It came up for sale 38 years after
the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s assassination and had been
stored at his widow’s home since his death.