We all know nothing is more important to Harry Belafonte than social responsibility and helping the less privileged. After spending the summer criticizing President Obama and Jay Z for not being involved enough with charity work, Belafonte is now fighting with none other than the descendants of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King.
Via NY Post reports:
Singer Harry Belafonte is suing the family of the late Martin Luther King Jr. to get back documents the music and film star claims he retained through his close relationship with the civil-rights leader and had hoped to auction off for charity.
The “King of Calypso” filed suit on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court against MLK’s daughter Bernice and the King estate “to resolve once and for all” a long-standing dispute over documents he tried to auction off in 2008 — only to have Bernice King claim the papers were “wrongfully acquired.”
The documents include notes from an undelivered speech that King had on him when he was assassinated in 1968, a famous 1967 speech that was King’s first outcry against America’s involvement in Vietnam, and a condolence letter that then-President Lyndon Johnson sent to King’s wife, Coretta, following MLK’s death.
Coretta Scott King gave Belafonte the LBJ letter in 2003, three years before she passed away. The notes from the Memphis speech — potentially King’s last written words — were left to Belafonte by a former King aide upon his death in 1979. Belafonte got the Vietnam speech outline directly from King.
Belafonte has previously estimated the total value of the documents at up to $1.3 million and reportedly said he wanted to donate the proceeds to charity.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and a court declaration that Belafonte is the rightful owner.
“Dr. King was a regular guest at Mr. Belafonte’s Manhattan apartment: he worked, socialized and rested there,” the suit says. “Not surprisingly, during their long time together, Mr. Belafonte came to own documents associated with Dr. King and his widow.”
Belafonte in 2008 turned the documents over to Sotheby’s to be assessed in value and then auctioned off, but Belafonte opted to withdraw the items from auction after Bernice King publicly claimed the items were “wrongfully acquired.”
“Not a scintilla of evidence was ever offered to support this claim, yet the Estate demanded the documents be turned over to them,” the suit says.
“Sotheby’s refused to return the documents to Mr. Belafonte [who maintained ownership from a distance] until the Estate and Bernice’s claim was resolved formally or informally. The documents, which Mr. Belafonte wishes to be returned to his possession, have remained with Sotheby’s ever since.”
The suit does not name Sotheby’s as a defendant or seek legal remedies against the auction house.
The suit also claims that the King estate has a long history to trying to recapture materials that MLK donated to others, including a case this year in which an appellate panel sided with his 87-year-old ex-secretary over various items given to her by her late boss.
Wow this is such a sad situation. The importance stressed here is…..have a will prepared no matter how early on in your life it still is. This sounds like this might be a hard fight for Belafonte.