There are few things that Black Americans as a collective hold dear in our hearts. One of these is the legacy of Dr. Martin L. King Jr. It is rare that tangible evidence of his existence is still preserved and has significant emotional and historic impact for not only the King family but the entire world. So it came as a surreal shock when Martin L. King III and Dexter King wanted to sell their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and his travelling Bible to a private collector. A public fight played out as his daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, allegedly hid the items from her brothers rather than surrender them to the MLK estate.
The King family has broken their father’s legacy in two parts. The first of which is the estate, Martin L. King Jr. Inc., which controls all images, written speeches, spoken word and the use of the King name. Dexter Scott King is president and CEO of the estate and Martin Luther King III is chairman of the board. Bernice King is the CEO if the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and has an exclusive license to use of the King name and elements of the estate.
A problem arose because of an audit in 2013 that indicated artifacts were not being properly stored or cared for by the King Center. This caused a move by the King brothers to make changes in its agreement with the King Center regarding rights and uses of the King estate, name and artifacts, such as the travelling Bible and Nobel medal. Last week, the family announced that it was dropping one of two lawsuits, which would have had all the King children in court. It was expected that embarrassing details would emerge about the infighting among family members. Martin III had a change of heart and wanted the first lawsuit dropped, which prompted Dexter to state “I understand my brother’s apprehension days before a public trial, and I share those concerns. … None of us want to see the legacy of my parents, or our dysfunction, out on public display.”
But a decision is still pending on the second lawsuit, which deals with the sale of the Bible and Nobel medal. That trial is scheduled to start sometime in February.