Belafonte is now suing the King family over speeches that Dr. King made when he was alive. In fact, Belafonte says that he is in possession of the notes that were in Dr. King’s pocket when he was assassinated in 1968. The King family takes issue with the items being sold largely because they’ve long felt the right to control nearly everything related to their father’s likeness. But Belafonte is challenging them on this one.
In addition to the notes that were in Dr. King’s pocket, Belafonte is also in possession of the condolence letter written by former President, Lyndon Johnson. The letter was sent to the grieving widow of Dr. King, Coretta Scott King. There are other King speeches in Belafonte’s possession, according to TMZ. One speech that he has is a famous one about the growing casualties of the Vietnam war.
Belafonte’s first effort to sell the items back in 2008 was blocked. The auction, to be held by Sotheby’s, was canceled after protest by the family of Dr. King. But Belafonte is continuing to push for the sale, filing a lawsuit asking a judge to help him prove that he is the rightful owner of the possessions. Until the suit is settled, Sotheby’s is still in possession of the items in question.
Belafonte and Dr. King had a long and consistent relationship during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King once worked out of Belafonte’s New York apartment, and Harry also provided financial support for the civil rights movement. This begs the question: How many African Americans in Hollywood would lend financial support to movements designed to help African Americans today?