Some of the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will go up for auction Thursday in spite of his family's long battle to control the market for those items. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
Experts say items like handwritten notes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1959 are rarely available to the public. But now, these will be.
"Where he is very scarce is in actual, original manuscript material of his thoughts, his ideas," said Sander Palomino, director of manuscripts at Heritage Auctions.
The items are from the collection of Maude Ballou, Dr. King's personal secretary. She and her late husband held onto these things. Now, at 88, she and her family decided this is the time to sell much of it, like a letter Dr. King wrote her from India, where he was studying Gandhi's strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience. Also in the collection is a letter listing Dr. King and Ballou as potential targets for violence.
"My mother was on what I call a hit list," said Howard Ballou, Maude Ballou's son. "Dr. King was number 1. She was number 21.
The auction could bring $150,000 or more, but like many artifacts associated with Dr. King, these almost were unavailable. His children sued the Ballou family, saying they didn't have the right to auction these things off. That lawsuit ultimately failed.
"She was just stunned that this could happen, but justice prevailed," Howard Ballou said.
That wasn't the only lawsuit, Harry Belafonte is currently suing the King children over other documents that each side claims to own. That kind of uncertainty could affect the way these items sell Thursday.
"There hasn't ever been something like this on the market that's actually ever made it all the way to auction," Palomino said.
The Ballou family said that some of the proceeds will go to Alabama State University. Among things they're keeping is another letter from Dr. King.
"Makes it out to Maude and Lenny, my mother and father, and thanks them for their part in the struggle," Howard Ballou said. "Those things, they're going to stay with the family.
For more information, or to perhaps bid, head to ha.com.