Are Martin Luther King’s Children Guilty Of Betraying His Vision And Milking His Legacy?

A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Martin Luther King has accused Dr. King’s children of “miking every opportunity to make money from their father’s legacy,” and that King would “feel betrayed by his own children.”

David Garrow was speaking on the topic of the Martin Luther King film Selma, when the subject of Dr. King’s children came up in regard to the small-budget film. The Mirror reports that the King children have for a long time only allowed companies to use their father’s famous words as long as they pay huge sums for the privilege.

Big brands such as Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and Chevrolet have all paid to use King’s words in their adverts, and in 2009, his children struck a deal with EMI Publishing to sell the use of their father’s speeches and sue anyone who infringed their copyrights.

Rather than being held to “ransom” by the King children, the producers of Selma chose not to deal with them at all, and that is why Selma does not include any direct quotes from the activist’s speeches.

British actor David Oyelowo, who plays King in the Oscar-nominated Selma, paraphrases Dr. King’s message without using the exact words, such as when he chants “give us the ballot” instead of “give us the vote.”

Dr. King’s surviving children, Martin, 57, Dexter, 54, and Bernice, 51, have courted controversy in the past for attempting to sue their father’s closest friends and have been involved in bitter disputes regarding his Nobel Peace Prize and his Bible.


King’s children have come under heavy criticism from Garrow, who believes Selma is not the film it could have been thanks to their greed.

“This portrayal isn’t King, but it captures him very nicely while evading the clutches of the greedy family. The real King is a vastly more powerful speaker than the one in the film.What audiences will see is a weak tea, watered down version of Dr King. There is no question that the real Dr King would feel betrayed by his own children.

“The King children have milked every opportunity to make money from their father’s legacy. Now people see the name Martin Luther King and one of the things they think about is his loser children who are trying to ­profiteer in any way possible from his contribution.”

Two years ago, a charity fundraising for a statue of Martin Luther King in Washington D.C. to mark the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech were forced to pay over three quarter of a million dollars to the King children for the privilege of using their father’s image and words. Such greed from a family of a hugely important historical figure is uniquely tragic, according to Garrow.

“I don’t think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family or any other has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in ­Washington.

“Just the other day Dexter said suing his sister is just business. That’s the great tragedy here. He thinks Martin Luther King Jnr’s legacy is just a business.The distant hope is 35 years from now perhaps the next generation of the King family will be able to ­appreciate their father’s legacy in a way his children have refused to do.”