Andrew Young at Odds with MLK’s Children

Deepti Hajela, Detroit News, November 29, 2013

Long sharing the common goal of protecting the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, the bond between the family of the slain civil rights leader and one of his former top aides, Andrew Young, has become threatened.

At issue is a lawsuit initiated by King’s sons. The points of legal contention are who has the rights to King’s words and image, and how far do those rights extend. Young is facing the sons’ ire over footage of King that shows up in a series produced by Young’s foundation. Another of King’s contemporaries also has legal issues with his children—actor Harry Belafonte, in a separate case, is debating ownership of some King documents.

“The question is whose legacy is it? And I agree that it’s their legacy, and that the copyright images of their father need to be protected by them, but I also feel that I’m doing the same thing for nothing and I will not give up my right to the legacy for their right to the legacy,” Young said recently in an interview with The Associated Press.

At the heart of the conflict is the lawsuit filed by King’s sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, who as chairman and president/CEO control their father’s estate including his image and his papers, against The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which is run by King’s daughter, Bernice, and where Young is a member of the board.

The estate’s suit asks that the center be stopped from using King’s image and likeness unless certain conditions are met. Among those conditions is that Young be removed from the center’s board of directors over allegations that he used footage of King in a documentary without permission.


Young, a King confidante who helped coordinate civil rights efforts throughout the south, disagrees about his use of footage in which he and King appear. “They said I infringed on their copyright. Well, I don’t think so, because I think it was my right—it’s mine also.”

But despite facing legal action from people he has been close to for years, Young was philosophical.

“I understand the reason for it. I think it’s the way things go, and the way probably they ought to go,” the former Atlanta mayor, congressman and United Nations ambassador said. “We took many cases to court, simply to have the doctrines clarified and to have a court consider the merits.”


But the legal actions from King’s civil rights heyday are a far cry from what’s unfolding through King’s children now, said Jelani Cobb, history professor and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

“The legal action Dr. King was concerned about was about broadening access,” Cobb said. “The legal action that we see most prominently from the King children is about broadening their own financial possibilities and protecting their copyright.”

By embracing their father “as a brand,” Cobb said, “his legacy under their stewardship has diminished.”


The three surviving King children—eldest sibling Yolanda died in 2007—have also sued each other. In 2008, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued Dexter King, accusing him of acting improperly as head of their father’s estate. The three reached a settlement in October 2009.

The legal actions have brought the King children criticism from some corners. But Young isn’t among those voices.

“Whenever I hear people criticize them, I say, remember, none of them were even teenagers when their father was killed and they’ve done pretty good,” Young said. “It’s almost impossible for anyone to live up to that name.”

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  • dd121

    Why act surprised? It’s what blacks do.

  • Doesn’t this read a lot like the bloods and crips fighting over the right to peddle dope on a ghetto street corner?

  • exlib93

    Take it up on The People’s Court with the rest of them.

  • These useless heirs are going to ride their dad’s legacy gravy train right into the ground.



    When it comes to money, they’ll argue on the color of shite

  • Spartacus

    Cockroaches fighting over the corpse of a rat…

  • So CAL Snowman

    Would this be the same Andrew Young (Carter’s Ambassador to the UN) who was influential in destroying Rhodesia’s transitional government and getting Bob Mugabe “elected” through terror tactics?

  • APaige

    Did King even have a legal right to the words he ‘wrote’?

    • Paul


    • dd121

      Most of what he wrote was eventually shown to be plagiarized. I’m not making this up.

  • Rhialto

    I am impressed. I cannot think of a finer, more exalted, or more appropriate way to celebrate the only American whose birthday is an American national holiday.

  • Luca

    Next the family will be setting up toll booths on every MLK Blvd. in the US.

    Nothing like making some easy money.

    But they won’t be collecting too much money from Whites on that scheme.

    • A Freespeechzone

      You ALWAYS know what part of town MLK Blvd. runs through….

  • Bob

    “…the rights to King’s words…”
    That’s pretty funny actually HAHA!

    • Spartacus

      Don’t those belong to the non-Eskimo that wrote them ?

      • Homo_Occidentalis

        The irony here is that King was a pathological plagiarist. He didn’t have a “speech-writer”, non-Eskimo or otherwise, because he just stole bits and pieces from other speeches and passed them off as his own words.

  • Has the King estate trademarked trying to have sex with white garbage?
    What about with men if he couldn’t get any white garbage?

  • CoweringCoward

    His reputation certainly EXCEEDS him.

  • saxonsun

    They love Greek names, both classical and modern.

    • Homo_Occidentalis

      That or they name themselves after Roman emperors (Tiberius, Titus, Quintillus, etc.), and get really “creative” with the spelling. Blacks are nothing if not modest…

      • [Guest]

        You’ve probably heard of Shitavious J. Cook. The last I heard, he was 15 years old and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. That was a couple of years ago, though. There’s probably a Shitavious J. Cook II by now.

        By the way, the shooting for which Shitavious was charged took place on Martin Luther King Drive. Imagine!

  • RHG

    Since this is all about money, will a brand of MLK haircare products be gracing our TV screens soon courtesy of the QVC home shopping network? I can see Harry Belfonte now yapping about the benefits of communisn, the evilness of whitey and the joys of the MLK beauty treatment now.How about a Kmart clothing line too?

  • Katherine McChesney

    He stole the name of Martin Luther, a WHITE Reformer.

    Interesting that there was no black he wanted to emulate.

    • Svigor

      I don’t mind that he stole Luther’s name; keeps the real Martin Luther somewhat in the public’s consciousness, when TPTB would obviously rather drop him down the memory hole.

  • Katherine McChesney

    “fambly” ????? You write that word like a black pronounces it. .

    • Joseph

      I wanted it to have that authentic flavor.

  • Svigor

    If a white family was acting this way, they’d be lampooned endlessly and mercilessly in the MSM.


    “Young said. “It’s almost impossible for anyone to live up to that name.” Including Martin Luther King himself!

  • [Guest]

    Besides everything else, this: Deepti Hajela? She’s a founding board member and former president of the South Asian Journalists Association, and she’s won awards more than once from the New York Association of Black Journalists. And she’s married to a black. This is who’s feeding us our news?

  • Yale2001

    Go ahead and release the FBI files. That would take care of this debate. These people would probably disappear from the stage for a few years. I can assure you they would avoid the media for awhile.

  • Paleoconn

    Jesse Jackson should get his share. After all, he cradled the dying MLK in his arms.