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Harry Belafonte filed a lawsuit against the estate of Martin Luther King Jr for the rights to sell documents from the late civil rights leader in an auction.

In the suit, filed in a Manhattan federal court this week, the 86-year-old claims he was prepared to auction off the items in 2008 however the King’s estate “astonishingly” blocked it. He insists that Coretta Scott King gave him a number of items before she passed in 2006 and he has the right to do with them as he pleases.

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According to reports, the documents include “an outline of a Vietnam War speech by King, notes to a speech King never got to deliver in Memphis, Tenn., and a condolence letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to King’s wife after the civil rights leader’s 1968 assassination.”

“For more than a decade, Dr. King and Mr. Belafonte worked at the epicenter of this nation’s historic Civil Rights movement, a history that is well documented,” states the complaint, citing the close relationship between King and Belafonte. “From Memphis to Birmingham, to Washington, D.C. and beyond, Dr. King and Mr. Belafonte worked on strategies and collaborated on issues that would transform American society.”

In the contrary, the King family argues that Belafonte “wrongfully acquired” the collection and refuses to return the items.

Miles Alexander, a lawyer for the King estate, declined to comment on the suit.

Harry Belafonte Vs. The Estate Of Martin Luther King, Jr. Inc. [PDF]


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