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A Legacy Fit for the Kings April 23, 2009

MLK Comic Book: Published by The Fellowship of the Reconciliation 1956

MLK Comic Book: Published by The Fellowship of the Reconciliation 1956

(Continuing on an earlier theme from today)

There is no denying that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is an iconic figure in American history. He was a preacher, a father, an author but it is his contributions towards the advancement of African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement are considered the pinnacle of his legacy. This has been affirmed by a recent project by the the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to create a King memorial on Washington’s Mall. A great honor indeed. It leads me to speculate for instance how Dr. King’s accomplishments may have been remembered had tragedy not interfered that
day on the balcony of a Memphis motel. How different would the lives of his children be? Would they have continued to live by his principles and philosophies? It is a well known fact that in his teachings Dr. King did not advocate being “owed” something because of the color of our skin, gender, or legacy. Having said that, it is unfortunate that his remaining children place great emphasis on the fact that America owes it to them to be as monetarily generous as possible when the public and donors permit.

Cartoon by  Robert Ariail

Cartoon by Robert Ariail

Los Angeles Times
Cashing in on Martin Luther King Jr.
The civil rights leader’s family is shamelessly selling his legacy.
By Jonathan Turley
April 22, 2009

The King family has long been criticized for insisting on payment for the use of their father’s name, image, speeches and virtually anything that they can claim for themselves or their foundation. The family reached a new low this week when it was revealed that they had been paid more than $800,000 by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation for the use of King’s image and words on the planned King memorial on Washington’s Mall.

In the latest monumental shakedown, the King family’s Intellectual Properties Management Inc. was paid $761,160 by the nonprofit foundation raising money for the Washington memorial. This was on top of a “management” fee of $71,700 paid in 2003. The Kings have defended the payments by noting that donations to the foundation have been down because people were giving to the monument fund instead. The other possibility is that fewer people want to give to a foundation run by the King family.

Few people familiar with the family are shocked by their demands. What is shocking is the failure of the memorial foundation to call their bluff and simply stop work on the memorial. Foundation officials should have publicly announced the payment so that donors could think seriously about whether they want to contribute to such an outrageous arrangement. Instead, officials waited for the Associated Press to force the disclosure. Donors have complained that they were never told of the arrangement.

Congress, which has already given $10 million for the project, should have conditioned public support on a waiver of such claims, and should now demand repayment for the amount given to the King Center. Former presidents waive their property claims over presidential material when they are honored with free libraries; it seems only right that the King family waive rights to famous speeches such as “I Have a Dream” as a precondition for this honor.

King himself was so opposed to appearing to profit from his work that when he won the 1968 Nobel Peace Prize, he gave the proceeds to charity. The insistence on payment for the use of the “I Have a Dream” speech is a particular outrage. King gave that speech to a nation — and a nation responded by rallying to his cause of public service and justice.

How do you feel? Should the Kings make a sizable profit from their father’s memorial? How do families in similar situations handle this? For instance the Kennedys or the Shabazz family (Malcolm X).

There is also much feuding among the King family.

The surviving children of King have been feuding in court since July, when daughter Bernice and son Martin Luther King III filed a lawsuit against their brother, Dexter, chief executive of the family corporation, King Inc., accusing him of misusing funds. He counter sued, saying they had obstructed the goals of the King Center. The siblings’ most recent battle involved a $1.4-million book deal with New York publisher Penguin Group for a ghostwritten memoir of Coretta Scott King. Dexter King went to court to compel his siblings to turn over photographs and personal papers for the project. The siblings resisted, saying that their mother had decided before her death that she no longer wanted author Barbara Reynolds to do the book.

“Nobody has the monopoly on Martin and Coretta Scott King,” Bernice King told the Associated Press in an interview. “This is ours, and it should be governed that way.” When she says “ours,” she is not referring to the nation. Indeed, the only thing the three living King offspring seem able to agree on is that anyone wanting to further their father’s legacy should pay for the privilege.

While I feel it is wonderful that Dr. King will finally have a memorial on Washington’s Mall- the highest accolade and proof of paramountcy to American history that our country can bestow, it is disconcerting that the man who committed himself to self-reliance has left a familial legacy who persists in their belief that he is still their sole means of support.


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15 Responses to “A Legacy Fit for the Kings”

  1. WMCB Says:

    I know that there were lots of reports last MLK day that newspapers and TV stations were not carrying the full text of his Dream speech, because the family was demanding royalties if they did. That is just sad, to me.

    I have no problem with there being a foundation, or taking in funds, or maintaining some control over how his image and writings are used. But there has to be a line, and not allowing the press to repeat his full speech, that was his gift to the nation, without paying for the privilege, is wrong IMO.

    • afrocity Says:

      I don’t think that Corretta would approve and that s where the feud comes into play. One daughter passed away not so long ago and things sort of collapsed after that. It is starting to be ridiculously greedy.

      • WMCB Says:

        Well, Corretta always had class, and lived that struggle long enough to never want to see it reduced to a marketing gravy train.

        I don’t think I ever saw that woman without her head held high and her principles intact, no matter the situation.

    • afrocity Says:

      True, except when she had to deal with Jesse Jackson, then the gloves came off. She endorsed I think Dukakis over Jackson and the Af-Am community was in an uproar.

      • WMCB Says:

        Yeah, but didn’t you always get the feeling with Coretta that she could rip someone a new one and slap him silly, without having a hair out of place or her hat budged one inch? LOL!

        I love formidable ladies.

  2. manbearpig68 Says:

    I can’t agree with what the King’s are doing if they are taking money for their own personal profit. It sounds like they missed out on a few lessons from their father. Like you said, a lot of it is the nations to own.

  3. Deathknyte Says:

    Martian Luther King was a great man, but his “followers” Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have betrayed what he stood for. I am saddend to see how the black community has gone from trying to free itself from the time of Jim Crow to basically being shackled to the democrat plantation.

  4. boldandbald Says:

    The biggest difference between MLK and the self professed leaders of the AA community today, is that MLK understood the difference between self reliance and subservience. He understood that all people need to stand on their own feet and take responsibility for their own lives rather than expect a handout and subject themselves to a lifetime of living off the good graces of others. King was a leader by his actions, not because of some self serving arrogance, but because of a true depth of character and a strong value base. His leadership for the AA community was not just for the AA community, but for all people. Unlike people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama etc, King’s actions were never self serving. It seems a real shame that his family is all about being self serving.

    You ask a very good question when you ask how different it would be today if he were still alive. How would his leadership have changed the course not only of the AA community but of the country as a whole? I think there is little doubt that his influence would have had a positive effect. So sad that we will never know.

    • afrocity Says:

      …And where would Obama be?

      More likely he would have thrown MLK under the bus just like Jesse Jackson.

      • boldandbald Says:

        Oh I don’t know about that. There were a whole lot of people who tried that when King was alive. More likely King would have sent him back home to learn some manners.

  5. FrenchNail Says:

    Afrocity, I posted a comment on your last post at the confluence and first ended in moderation than had it deleted with the comment “we are not going thru that again”. Were you the one making that judgement call? I am very upset about it. It was about the fact that Jindhal does not meet the constitutional requirement to be President of the US.

    • afrocity Says:

      I am not sure that I am following you. I was not aware of any issue on Jindal’s citizenship nor have I ever mentioned it.

      I did not delete any comments on TC.

      • FrenchNail Says:


        Thanks for your reply.

        The moderator at the Confluence in charge of your post deleted a comment I made on the fact that eventhought Jindhal is an American citizen, he is not of that special category of American citizens who are Natural Born American Citizens. To have not only the quality of being an American citizen but the qualification of being a Natural Born Citizen, one have to Be born on the territory of the US to TWO American citizens.

        The qualification of being a Natural Born American Citizen is only required from candidates to the Presidency, by Article II of the Constitution. For all the other elected positions, being an (Plain) American citizen is enough.

        Therefore according to the Constitition Jindhal cannot (but in post-Obama era, who knows) be a candidate to the Presidency. He was born in America but at least one of his parents (in his case both) were not American citizens.

        That’s all I said.

        I love the Confluence, but recently …. uhm… I think I am going to take a break on commenting there.

  6. I feel for them. It must’ve been incredibly difficult to loose a wonderful father then to feel the intense pressure of living up to gigantic expectations while millions of people watched. Maybe we should give them a break–who could do a perfect job under these circumstances?

    • boldandbald Says:

      I don’t think anyone is asking for perfection. We just wish that they would attempt to live up to his teachings instead of living off his fame.

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