Harry Belafonte has cut a deal with the family of Martin Luther King Jr. that allows the singer to keep documents given to him by the late civil rights leader.
Belafonte said he obtained the documents through his friendship with King, and was planning to auction them off for charity. The documents included an undelivered speech that King had with him when he was assassinated in 1968, which was believed to be the final thing King had ever written. There was also a famous 1967 speech that included King’s first public statements against American involvement in Vietnam.
Also included was a letter of condolence from then-President Lyndon Johnson to King’s widow, Coretta King, after the civil rights leader’s assassination. Coretta gave the letter to Harry Belafonte in 2003, three years before her death.
Belafonte estimated that the documents were worth $1.3 million, and said he planned to auction then with the proceeds going to charity. He filed a suit last year against King’s daughter Bernice and the King estate to end a dispute over the documents, which King’s estate claimed Belafonte “wrongfully acquired.”
On Friday, both sides announced that they had reached a compromise “resulting in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents.”
“The parties express their appreciation to one another for the good faith efforts that led to this resolution,” the lawyers said in a joint statement.
The King family has come into other legal arguments over his legacy. Three of his surviving children have taken each other to court several times, and in 2008 Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued Dexter King, saying he was improperly acting as head of their father’s estate. the case was settled in 2009.
The children are currently in a legal battler over possession of King’s Nobel Peace Prize and one of his Bibles.
Harry Belafonte has not announced if he still plans to auction off the final speech of Martin Luther King Jr.