(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.
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.
Autographed Letter Signed,