Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.

James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times, October 16, 2013

Harry Belafonte is 86, an age that tends to focus the mind on putting one’s affairs in order. And that is why, Mr. Belafonte says, he has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the three surviving children of one of his closest friends: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At issue are three documents that used to be in Mr. Belafonte’s collection of memorabilia, along with other photos and letters on the walls of his apartment, chronicling his long friendship with Dr. King. Mr. Belafonte says the papers were given to him by Dr. King himself; by his widow, Coretta Scott King; and by Dr. King’s close aide Stanley Levison.

Dr. King’s heirs—Dexter, Bernice and Martin Luther King III—have said the documents were taken without permission and belong to the estate.

Mr. Belafonte, who often supported the King family financially during the civil rights struggle, said the dispute pains him. He said in his view, Dr. King’s children had drifted away from their father’s values. “The papers are symbolic,” he said. “It’s really about what happened to the children, and I feel that somewhere, in this one area, I really failed Martin.”

One of the documents is a three-page outline for Dr. King’s 1967 speech “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam,” written on a legal pad in Mr. Belafonte’s New York apartment. The second is a letter of condolence from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Mrs. King. The third is an envelope Dr. King had in his pocket the day he was assassinated in 1968. On it he had scribbled notes for a speech he was to give in Memphis.

In December 2008, Mr. Belafonte tried to sell the documents at Sotheby’s auction house to raise money, he says, for Barrios Unidos, a charity that works with street gangs. Before the sale could go forward, however, Dr. King’s estate challenged Mr. Belafonte’s ownership of the papers that same month, charging in a letter to Sotheby’s that they are “part of a wrongfully acquired collection.”

Since then, the documents have been in limbo, sitting in the auction house’s storage vault while attempts to settle the dispute out of court have failed. {snip}

On Tuesday, Mr. Belafonte filed papers in federal court in Manhattan asking a judge to declare him the rightful owner.

{snip} The King family has a history of suing to protect its right to Dr. King’s works and images, and they have also aggressively sought to recover Dr. King’s documents.


Mr. Belafonte’s lawyer, Jonathan Abady, said the King estate has never presented evidence that Mr. Belafonte stole the documents. What’s more, the three-year time limit for filing a suit in New York to reclaim them has passed, he argued.

“We were left with no choice but to seek relief from the courts,” Mr. Abady said. “And, whatever rights the King children have, they are not entitled to undo the wishes and actions of their parents.”


Taylor Branch, a historian who wrote a trilogy of books on Dr. King, said the documents are of little value to scholars but have great value as memorabilia. He called the family’s attempt to wrest the items from Mr. Belafonte “sad to the point of tragedy.”

Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer and close friend, said the King family had every right to protect its copyright. Still, he said the heirs’ attempt to recover documents from Mr. Belafonte was “inconsistent with, and, really, a denigration of, the love and integrity that their dad had for the people who worked with him.”

“Harry Belafonte is not just another person,” he said.


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  • Stentorian_Commentator

    Maybe both sides can do us a favor and bust “caps” in each other’s articles.

    • sbuffalonative

      That’s certainly how you gain street cred in the hood.

  • sbuffalonative

    The second is a letter of condolence from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Mrs. King. The third is an envelope Dr. King had in his pocket the day he was assassinated in 1968. On it he had scribbled notes for a speech he was to give in Memphis.

    If the condolence letter was to Mrs. King, unless it was legitimately given to Mr. Belafonte for some reason, I don’t see why he has it or believes he has a right to keep it. As for the note from the pocket. If it was given to him, it’s his.

    The King family certainly does exert a great effort laying sole claim to the legacy of MKL Jr.

    • Skip Wellington

      If it’s a condolence letter to mrs. king, a note from his pocket or something he just wiped his bum with, it MUST be treated with the greatest reverence and heretofore stationed in the Smithsonian Institute so that it may inspire one and all.


    • gemjunior

      Yes they do but they exert that effort to obtain more ‘gibsmedat’. None of them are any use at all to any of the ‘black community’. Regression to the mean I guess.

    • Jesse_from_Sweden

      Mr. Belafonte says the papers were given to him by Dr. King himself; by
      his widow, Coretta Scott King; and by Dr. King’s close aide Stanley

      So the widow is named as one of those who had given him the documents.

  • Katherine McChesney

    Division among blacks is entertaining.

    • Jesse James

      Well there is that Katherine. One can imagine poor old Harry dancing on top of his desk trying to keep some yellowed old letter from MLK out of the hands of the secular saints worldly porcine children.

    • Jiffy Pop anyone? …. Do they still make it BTW?

  • Jesse James

    Harry Belafonte is a 1950s era communist, the sooner he is fertilizing the green grass of some shady acres cemetery the better. I won’t miss him or the Southern traitor Jimmy Carter.

    Honestly why does AMREN have to run so many stories referencing MLK? I can assure you that none of your regular readership has any illusions about that over rated communist. He is a secular Progressive saint, none of us here buy into that particular myth.

    • So CAL Snowman

      I think it’s pretty funny, as it shows just how deep the dysfunction really goes. Instead of “honoring” the memory of such a “great” man, the blacks are too busy picking the bones clean like any good vulture. Oh i’m sorry that was ornithologically insensitive to birds.

  • Spartacus

    “…Dr. King’s close aide Stanley Levison.”


    Aide ? Try “handler” .

    • Jesse James

      Really are all these prominent Negroes issued a Jewish handler or does it just seem that way? I guess those who can’t be named really hate giving away gobs of money without having someone to keep an eye on it for them.

      • Sick of it

        See the history of the NAACP.

    • Luca

      You took the exact words right out of my mouth.

      • Spartacus

        My hand is still sticky…

  • bigone4u

    Belafante is anti-white but married to a white woman. If it weren’t for the genralized lust of black men for white women, Belafante would be viewed as a traitor to black causes. Can you picture a male white nationalist married to a black woman? Of course, King lusted after white women too. If I had a shot at getting my hands on the papers in question that are up for auction, I would burn them and take a hit for misdemeanor destruction of property.

    • Puggg

      If so many anti-white black men go with white women, we should pick up on that as a pattern, not just a hypocritical coincidence. They go with white women because they are anti-white.

      • joesolargenius

        They go with White women because Black Women are usually a lot uglier ,ruder and stupider than the average plain White Women plus White Grandparents are easier to get money from !

        • bigone4u

          Yes, the white woman’s parents can more easily come up with bail money when D’Quan is arrested. The only thing I disagree with in your comment is that by insulting black women, you compared them to white women. There is no comparison to the beautiful white woman.

        • Whitetrashgang

          Well that and who would want to go out with somebody who weighs 300 lbs and wears a weave worth more than their car.

        • leftists are delusional

          Everyone tries to mate as high “up” on the genetic latter as possible. Smarter, prettier, etc.
          I actually don’t hold it against the black men that try to get white women.
          Now the mud sharks on the other hand, I say good riddens we don’t need their genetic contribution if they are so stupid as to breed with Africans.

      • bigone4u

        It rubs the noses of white men in the dirt when a black gets a white woman, especially a blonde or redhead. Thus, your last sentence is 100 percent true. Mexican males do the same.

    • Jesse James

      big you obviously never heard the man talk, he is a rabid communist. I am not sure how he could be seen as a traitor to the black race, though I do know some black women resent it when the more successful men of their race take white wives. Black men who take white women are exercising their dominance over whites, that is certainly the way black men see it.

      • bigone4u

        I had in mind the contrast with Mohammed Ali. Ali talked openly about how only a black woman could satisfy the needs of a black man. He advocated that black men stay with black women and white men stay with white women. So, Belafonte and the other blacks with white women are violating Ali’s dictum. In reality, black males will have sex with anything that moves and even some things that don’t move.

        • Whitetrashgang

          You mean like another black male in a wheelchair that has a flat tire?

        • Jesse James

          I get your point, Belafonte just really annoys me. So un-American, so ungrateful of his fame and good fortune, so full of hate for whites, so blindly Communist.

    • Katherine McChesney

      That ‘White woman’ is a Hebrew.

    • It’s the recessive genes working in this pro-blacks favor.
      As the net result of either union, no matter what the ideology is a non white (a ‘black’ if you want cred in the black community, or ‘mixed race’ if you want to appease leftist whites that still want to somehow figure into the equation).

      These anti white agitators will happily use the brilliance or beauty(I should probably qualify that with “potential”) of Caucasian genes to further their own cause, it sickens me as I’m sure it does most others here.
      I guess for the non whites it’s win-win, they get the genes (and the contradictory proof that racial differences are only skin deep) and they get to “take down” another producer of white babies in this silent race war.

      Harry Belafonte is a Mulatto, all of his kids are therefore Mulatto’s, last time I looked all of his kids were also popping out more watered down Mulatto’s with their respective White partners, who’ll no doubt fight for “black rights” too.

      All the contradictions are in the details that no one wants to talk about, in fact if you ‘go there’, “racist”(!) alarm bells usually go off.
      There are a lot of blue eyed, blond haired Aborigines and Maoris fighting for their peoples rights down this neck of the worlds.
      I wonder what the count off point is to join the shake down, a 1/16th or 1/32nd (great grandparents to the power of 2 or 3).

      • Sick of it

        Not sure how it is ‘down under’, but in America one has to be 1/8 or more.

        • So ‘up over’ you just need a great grand parent, I find it curious how they must work it out in terms of splitting hairs.
          Because what if the great grand parent was a half caste themselves?
          The decision must come down to one official’s discretion, where the applicants ‘visible minority’ status must sway the decision.
          It surely is the reverse of times past, where finding colored blood is now a positive, in terms of ‘the system’ at least.

          • Sick of it

            Honestly I have no idea where their ridiculous ideas come from. If ethnic heritage were truly important to them, a one drop rule should have been applied. Or maybe they just want to exclude everyone who didn’t come from more recent reservation Indian groups.

          • My mother worked for the Human Rights Commission as an investigator, education officer and mediation officer, on side note she visited the US in the 1990’s and popped into an Californian Human Rights office as a professional courtesy and she told me that when they asked her if, our indigenous people lived on reservations, that she laughed in their faces.
            I believe it too, as my mother is a loud mouth, racist bully (she hates high IQ groups, but unconditionally loves the low IQ’ers), something I think us right wingers take for granted is how much of a pissing contest left wingers are in with each other, looking to out do each other by claiming the higher moral ground so that they can ironically be the supremacist over each other (I suppose we have a equivalent, by trying to show who’s ‘the hardest’) .

            I was raised in the progressive world and I’ve seen so much hatred, hypocrisy, double standards dressed up and re branded as love, to me all their ‘do gooding’ comes across as selfish and ego driven.
            Re the bloodline aspect, I remember one of my mother’s contemporaries (who was on $150k a year) was investigating a claim by two adopted daughters of some of our indigenous peoples to their tribal corporate property, the result of that investigation was that ‘culture’ meant nothing(these girls were raised virtually from birth, fluent in the language etc), it all came down to the blood, I tend to agree.

          • Sick of it

            In America, the government would accept the adopted children as part of the tribe. I’m kind of surprised that your country would go against English common law like that. We even have incest laws that prohibit relations between people on the basis of an adoptive relationship.

          • I think it was a tribal decision in the end and it was motivated financially.
            Where I am, most Whites roll their eyes when ever anything regarding cultural grievances comes up, as the solution to such grievances always seems to cynically involve a cash payout of some sort, which of course just encourages more cultural historical claims, in fact as time goes on, the more our past deeds are getting a “Holocaust”(tm) revisionist look about them, never mind that the current descendants biggest problem is obesity(all this sounds too familiar I know).
            Eg. We’ll build a hydro electrical dam, then pretty quickly we’ll get one of these ‘magic men’ will pop up in a very sympathetic news report showing them washing their face up stream (of course) claiming that this river was very sacred to their people.
            When we Whites settled here, the same land was resold many times by the same natives, who’ve always been sly.

          • Sick of it

            We had our own sly natives in America who sold land to which they did not hold all of the rights. They didn’t talk to other chiefs about it ahead of time. We ended up going to war.

          • We went to war too, but after dealing with various troublesome colonies Queen Victoria’s British empire was starting to take a more liberal attitude about dealing with the natives.
            Also militarily the British high command had a ‘storm the fort’ strategy mentality, where our adversaries used a network of bases that they’d quickly bug out of, preferring to fight jungle warfare style.
            Apparently the British troops and conscripts would dig trenches all day, then the natives would come and fill them in at night.
            You can probably guess that I’m not talking about the Nomadic Aborigines, but about warrior tribe who love to fight.
            In the end, we signed a treaty, the rest is history.

    • Katherine McChesney

      My previous comment was censored by the moderator. I merely said that Belafonte’s White Wife was of the Hebrew persuasion.

      • Rhialto

        The phrasing of your comment might be construed as implying that being a [email protected]# meant that one was not White.

  • JohnEngelman

    Martin Luther King’s children are hucksters who have tried and unfortunately succeeded in making money off of their father’s memory.

    • Luca

      They probably pried the gold teeth out of his mouth before the funeral director could close the box.

  • Eagle_Eyed

    “Harry Belafonte is 86, an age that tends to focus the mind on putting
    one’s affairs in order. And that is why, Mr. Belafonte says, he has
    filed a lawsuit in federal court against the three surviving children of
    one of his closest friends: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

    Oh yeah, one of those black “reverends” who doesn’t preach at a church, one of those black “doctors” who plagiarized much of his dissertation, and one of those “Jr.’s” whose real birth name was Michael King but changed it to something more religious-sounding.

    • Katherine McChesney

      King took a White man’s name as his own. The Protestant Reformation’s Martin Luther name, in fact a former catholic monk.

      • JohnEngelman

        Would you like it better if his name had been Dulane “Sex Machine” King?

        • Katherine McChesney

          Actually, that would be a good name for him given his penchant for prostitutes.

  • Jesse James

    Well almost none of us here buy into Saint MLK. Well John it is still more or less a free country, you pick your heroes and I will pick mine.

  • Robert Binion

    With no future they cling bitter (TM) to fabled past. And all the incunabula of a civil, golden age become trinkets for the junkman’s eye.

  • Diversity vs. Diversity.

    My unchecked White privilege tells me to cheer for the Diversity.

  • Harry is jealous of the kids ability to gravy-train the fallacy of MLK ,inc.

  • Contradictory. You say the above pictured depraved miscreant “made the 1960s,” but then you turn right around and say that he “had no power to enforce his will.”

    I tend to the latter argument. We would still have gotten the civil and voting rights acts and gotten them when we got them but for MLK. That’s because MLK wasn’t responsible for their enactment, politicians were. The civil rights industry likes to celebrate January 15 or thereabouts as a national holiday for civil rights, when in reality they should celebrate August 27 as that day, Lyndon Johnson’s birthday.

    • Luca

      Civil Rights were started by Eisenhower, enhanced by Kennedy and exploited by Johnson.

      • JohnEngelman

        During the presidential campaign of 1960 most Americans saw little difference between Kennedy and Nixon on civil rights. Both candidates ignored the issue when campaigning in the South. They gave it lukewarm support in the North. They both realized that it was an issue that could not help them, and could hurt them if they took a strong stance on either side.

        • They saw little difference between Kennedy and Nixon for a good reason, because there was actually little difference. The civil rights laws were Kennedy’s desire, but his assassination installed the far more politically capable Lyndon Johnson as President who was able to use his political skill to get them passed. The President who succeeded him, the aforementioned Richard Nixon, then applied the legislation that LBJ wanted and got in an administrative sense to the Federal bureaucracy and regulatory agency making process.

          • JohnEngelman

            During the early 1960’s segregationists were their own worst enemies, and unwitting allies of Martin Luther King.

            Violence against civil rights demonstrators angered white racial moderates, and helped to get civil rights legislation passed.

      • Paleoconn

        Yeah, Ike gave us the 101st Airborne in the Arkansas school. Useless, if not harmful RINO.

  • There are some things a person should keep private:

    Homosexual tendencies, lice infestation & black-worship.

    • JohnEngelman

      It is dangerous to tell the truth about blacks. It is safest to express black worship in public, while telling the truth only to trusted friends behind locked doors and closed windows.

  • Luca

    Your agitation knows no bounds. We all know what he was, who backed him, who he plagiarized, his phony media persona, and the heights of his hypocrisy. Ah-ha,… hypocrisy, now I get it. That’s why you worship him so, he was the consummate hypocrite.

    Lyndon Johnson made the 60’s what they were and today we live with the aftermath.

    MLK was an eloquent negro and a front man, just like Obama. But MLK had better acting skills.

    • JohnEngelman

      John Kennedy was irritated by the civil rights movement. He considered it a liability during the Cold War. Lyndon Johnson turned against Dr. King when Dr. King turned against the War in Vietnam.

      King was his own man. He was an eloquent speaker. In addition, he was able to out smart his enemies. He knew how to bring out the worst in them. This won sympathy for the civil rights movement.

      • Katherine McChesney

        King was a BS’er from the start. He was a puppet, just like obama.

      • Luca

        You entirely missed my counterpoint or purposely did not address it.
        LBJ made the 60’s what they were and the we suffer the aftermath.

        Kennedy was a champion of civil rights but it was not at the top of his list. When one considers other matters such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Wall it’s easy to see why.

        King had White benefactors, and was so smart he had to plagiarize his college thesis and wasn’t aware he was being wire tapped and taped in motel rooms with white hookers.. Then he depended on a negro security team and we see where that got him.

  • drofmanythings

    Kings greedy heirs continue to milk the dream perpetually. Meanwhile, Saint Belafonte has never met a white conservative who isn’t a bigoted racist. They deserve one another,

  • deadindenver

    Under the legal doctrine of White privilege the papers clearly belong to Harry Belafonte as he is the lighter skinned black 😉

  • saxonsun

    I have a Ph.d–I earned it. I did not plagiarize much of my dissertation like King did. That’s why I can’t call him “Dr.”

    • JohnEngelman

      That is a valid point. However, you did not compose some of the most eloquent speeches in the English language either. Dr. King did.

  • Having Bantu blood is certainly ‘in vogue’ more so these days with the decadent upper classes.
    We can all see how celebrities are running around (ironically) buying Bantu’s to show atonement for our short lived, shared slavery past.

    But even the ‘old money’ caste are getting in on the act such as John Boehner’s daughter marrying a black man, John McCain’s son marrying a black woman and Britain recently getting it’s first black marchioness through marriage.
    And this is considered progress.

    • Sick of it

      Old money Northeasterners have almost completely bought into the marvels of Marxism. Maybe because they figure it for a good way to skim money off of the labor of others, which would fit with them from an historical perspective. They’ve also got an age old habit of wanting to control other people.

      • Acquiring black skin through marriage or adoption does tend to make one immune to political/social criticism.

  • Paleoconn

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. I wish both parties a long, painful, nasty, expensive legal battle that leaves both sides bankrupt.

  • Paleoconn

    Your last sentence is perhaps the most meaningless phrase I have read from you, and you spout a lot of nonsense, so tha says a lot.