Harry Belafonte Settles Claim Against MLK Estate

April 11, 2014: Lawyers for singer and activist Harry Belafonte and those representing the estate of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced that an agreement has been made that will allow Belafonte to retain ownership of three documents written by Dr. King. The documents were reportedly given to him by Dr. King, his wife Coretta, and Stanley Levison, a good friend of King.

This is just one of a number of suits brought by or against the MLK estate, as noted in our articles Fight Over MLKs Bible and Nobel Prize Ends Up in Court and Martin Luther King Estate Battle Escalates; Judge Removes Attorney William Hill from Case

The documents involved in the singer’s claim against the King estate include a hand-written outline of Dr. King’s 1967 Vietnam War speech, which he wrote while visiting Belafonte in New York. The second was a draft of a 1968 speech King planned to give in Memphis, TN. It was later found in King’s suit pocket after he was assassinated. The last document was a letter of condolence from then president Lyndon Johnson to King’s widow.

For details about the history of the case, read the October, 2013 New York Time article, Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.

A joint statement by Belafonte and the King estate stated that the parties had come to a confidential compromise that “resulted in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents.” No comments beyond that were made.

For more details, read the Associated Press (AP) report, Belafonte Keeping King Documents in Settlement.
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