Harry Belafonte is Suing the Family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

weweepwpoewopHarry Belafonte was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  But the relationship between Belafonte and King’s children hasn’t been as golden as the one that he had with their father.

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?


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  36. Mr Belafonte sold his New York apartment to a member of the Disney family for $10 million a few years ago

  37. He who is without sin cast the first stone…….Do you not see the truth of the matter, if the children had possession of the items they would be yet again sueing one another, I am in no doubt of Dr.King being alive today would really be disgraced of his offsprings, They the king children would sell their mothers soul for a dollar, no morals, family worth, nor integrity do they have, if its not for profit they want nothing to do with it, they may as well be the bullet that killed their father because thats what they are doing to his memory with this foolery, how dare they bite the hand that feed them, and so many other things this man thought enough to do after Dr.Kings death, one favor deserves another, they dont know if Harry was planning to give the proceeds of the sale of the items or what, they are all of the definition if greedy.

  38. There is the assure of money, rebates and discount rates if you will just tour this resort or that propertya?| make a working day of it! Get a free lunch! It will be great

  39. He must need the money, otherwise, why not put the items on loan to a history museum.

  40. A local news reporter’s mother worked as Dr. King’s secretary and her son was sued by the King children for memorabilia—they LOSS. Now, it is being auctioned by the news reporter.

  41. As Salaam Alaikum (Peace Unto You),

    Fact: Brother Harry Belafonte has used his time, energy, and money for the uplift, redemption, and reform of Black People and all humanity for most of his adult years. His reputation and historical past has shown that his decisions have been made based on how he could provide the greatest good for the greatest number.

    It is a shame that people make statements void of facts or history that would besmirch the character or reputation of Brother Harry Belafonte.

    There is no history showing Brother Harry Belafonte has ever taken what was not rightfully his nor attempted to distribute what belonged to someone else. Therefore, if we err, we should err in favor of Brother Harry Belafonte as opposed to others who come to the table with unclean hands.

    I urge the people to stop, think, and understand that we as a people are in no condition to continue to trash our icons who have proven their integrity and sincere work on behalf of Black People.

    In Service By Allah (God’s) permission
    Barney Muhammad

  42. Here We Go Again; first, sueing your brother over money….: Dr. King’s Life/Public – Belongs to the World, he fought so hard for the People. The people have a right to have a piece of greatness in their possession. King Children, you are Greedy!!!! (During that great Move to Break the Chains of Discrimination)you were not in the great Struggle)… You just Reaped the aftermath of goodness; what you did not earn!!!. What Job do you really hold; What One Thing do you DO??? that Identifies with this wonderful Champion of Justice/for the people, especially us-Blacks; You Pitiful Heirs are really not Worthy of holding nothing but His name; (that we can’t help)Now; you are sueing – Harry Bellafonte, Who was a Close personal Friend of Dr. King, Say it again, He was His Friend!!! in times of Gross Turmoil.He helped him, he exposed Him to the stage and screen people, who helped him, ( when all of you/children could not tell Time)… The Rights of those personal papers, etc., letters, pictures, notes belong to Harry!!!. King gave them, to him. Dr. King lived and worked at his New York apt., financed him, marched with him, got white rich and famous to give him money without strings… This Movement was the Unity of Brothers and Sisters who did this, to Rid America of the Ugly, the segregation and the Abuse of Racism., To open Doors; to take Any Bus Seat…& It is very Clear – you are not like your father he was very very careful of who he accepted money from…. You people hold up, hold your hand out for everything that concerns money; “Why don’t you Open a *School & Run It, & Teach about your great and noble father; The public Schools of American ought to Hang their heads in Utter Shame; for not teaching Values, especially Honesty of this man… Why??? Don’t the 3 of you do IT!!! Open a school-educate the black children of real humanity; Kids in Atlanta, don’t even know about Maynard Jackson… Your Dad, would not even take his “Nobel Money” and buy a Big Old House for himself. He was man of such excellent character; Rare Integrity, and rare Ultra-Dignity; (He never held on to money for himself; He was about, Helping Others. I don’t even like Harry – in this 21st Century – However, we must always acknowledge and revere strong personal commitment, and the accomplishments between two men on one accord. “Your family is not on one accord”. Some never Show up for your father’s Recognition. Harry – has a right to KEEP those papers or Sell them. Your method, your intent escapes me – how Stingy, all for Self/plus greed… to run over a Man, who loved your father, and backed his every cause and social change intervention during the struggle. The weak front you put up against the White College/ Boston University was futile!!!yes, you Lost. Now, you after Harry – Please – Try Integrity, Call on Decency and let Harry, a real and dear friend of Dr. King have those papers. This is a real disgrace!!! All you Black so-called; alleged Christians Always running to the White man, and his white court to settle your greedy self-made problems!!!. Preachers – always bickering; always after money… +Jesus ~ Does not Like This!!!!; Your father is distressed over this from the grave; he would let Harry Keep or Sell-what he has… Your Father was all About Peace, and Humility!!! “Did you hear the white folks talking about you all”; (I thought those King’s were church-God fearing people, sweet people; standing for Goodness not Confusion),. You don’t have one endeavor going on to keep his work Alive!!!!nothing going on in the Community of his Birthplace/Atlanta. If old man Harry needs the money, So What!!! (You Want the Money) King people relatives, children of this Tremendous Icon of Right… Try Fairness; Laced with Dignity.


  44. It is amusing to read the variant points of view from so many different sources, whether valid or not valid. What would be of substance to read is the lawsuit by Mr. Belafonte,Plaintiff, and the King family members, Defendants. Alas, reading about the lawsuit and the subsequent responses is, where the news about the conflict at issue would become interesting. All else is just rhetoric/verbal ventilating.

  45. No one is perfect Why do we keep looking for perfectionin man? This willw ork itself out. Nonr of us know the real facts. So move on please.

  46. Much love to Harry but he’s wrong on this one.

  47. Take this matter to US Rep. Maxine Watters to decide. I trust her decision.

  48. One responder to the article is correct. We the public do not know the circumstances well enough to comment. It would be nice though if the King children and Belafonte could agree to a mutually beneficial financial arrangement which would allow them to obtain the documents and support Mr.Belafonte’s interests. Sadly, this almost never happens in the government or privately.

  49. What a sensational article. Facts are lost for the sake of arguments. What the article fails to mention is that the artifacts being up for auction the proceeds were to be donated to non profit organizations fighting poverty and injustice. Harry felt the children would use their fathers fame for careers and not plow their own destinies. Remember the money Dr king received for winning the Nobel peace prize went back into the movement he did not keep one penny of his award. I think Harry is only carrying out Dr king legacy and the legacy is more important than a few spoiled siblings.

  50. So glad my dog ain’t in that fight.

  51. Balafonte financially took care of the kink family after his death.
    The children never acknowledge that fact.
    The king children have sued each other.
    The niece is a right wing nut

  52. I know that some *****es would not agree with this but all this stuff here can be traced all the way back to Eorupean Slavery.Europeans and their *****es would love this kind of Mind Control.

  53. Rev. George Brooks

    What simple Simon is trying to put forth the question about whether other blacks in Hollywood would lend financial support to various black movements? What an odd way to go, given the fact that this story should be totally about these important papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, and who should have control of them. So whoever you are STOP trying to lead the crowd off in some other direction and on some subject of your on. NOW, that said, these papers need to be placed in the King Center, or some place under B-L-A-C-K guardian-ship, and NOT under the control of NO whites AT ALL! And naturally the family should have more say and any one else. Would Belafonte allow anyone other family, other than his own, to be handling and controlling anything of importance of his? However, that bunch of weakling children of the King family, should not be allowed to sell even a shoe string or a sock that once belonged to their father. They, I hate to say, are a sorry bunch that don’t seem to possess any of the greatness of their dad, nor their mother. BUT, let’s all loudly call out that nothing of Dr. King’s should go into the hands of ANY whites. And especially those that are descended of that religion that Abraham and Moses were associated with. And it’s call Judaism. — Rev. George Brooks

  54. Like your soul, there are some things that should not be sold! These items should not. Mr. Belafonte has gotten up there in age so maybe this is his way of saying good bye after all the children are going to sell them, aren’t they fighting over the estate as I type this!

  55. It sadding my heart how we like money take control of our lives.it say in the Bible money is the rule of a evil.We fight,steal,lie,cheat,kill for it to get peace! But you Get Peace in Jesus! Read Acts2:38!

    • MONEY is NOT the root of all evil!!!!! It is the LOVE of money, Sweetheart: 1 Timothy 6:10.

      I have heard this misquote so many times, you’re surely not the only one, but now I hope you learn better.

  56. I slightly remember one of Malcome X daughter being interview, and she said something like that she would rather have her father than him being known as a hero of civil rights. I cannot be to sure but it seems that she also stated that the people of today did not appreciation her fathers efforts anyway. I know if she did not say I am sure saying it. First of all, a letter from President Johnson? Who cares, rip it up and burn it. Dr. King, the Kings children father was killed because he spoked out about the Viet Nam war, a war that President Johnson was getting rich from. That is why he was killed. All of those who was geting rich from that war knew that if Dr. Kings plan to bring his “Poor People Campaaign” to Washington after he left Memphis and had a 1/2 million people to protest the Viet Nam war, it would stop the flow of money going into many pockets including Johnson who had investment oil and other commodities. The King children lost their father at an early age, their father was not their to play faher games, tuck them in bed, at the dinner table, he wa out there trying to save a nation who really show very lile respect for his work or many of the other ancestors who died so that we can be free or stop the suffering of a people. Look at us today, we are worse off, slavery is still exist. What happen to Kendrick’s Johnson in Georgia how can that happen in this day in time. We all believe that we have it better, but that is not true, it is just a front we as a people are so easily deceived, because we can dres in a certain fashion we have it made. Most of our people live in the worse neighborhoods, we have the worst schools, get the worst hospital care. In the meantime, we spend the most money on tobacco, drugs, alchol, fake nails and hair, in fact we have more Bllllack women with hair looking like women, we are still not a proud people of ourselves. Maybe the King children are trying take ownership of whatever they can of their father possion because Dr. King gave a lot to us they they wish they could have had of him.

  57. What is the point in asking the last question when Belafonte is clearly after a quick buck?

  58. Sorry for the typos in my previous post. I wish our posts were available for editing for a few minutes after posting as many of the other sites are. I will always admire Harry Belafonte. He has been consistent in his support of African Americans..unlike so many celebrities and unfortunately..our elected officials.

  59. This is a “ratchet” move by Belanfonte, but legally he has the right to do it because he legally had obtained possession of the letters and therefore has sufficient control to do what he wants with them. But what is his motive? Greed/ Exposure of the truth? Even so, he still should not do it out of respect to MLK.

  60. Although I respect Mr. Belafonte a lot for his contribution to the Civil Rights struggle, I have to go with the King family on this one. Unless Belafonte has power of attorney for MLK Jr. he cannot rightly claim anything of value from Dr. King’s estate. My understanding is that all valuables go to wife once King died, and then if the wife has also passed it goes to the children. I hope and pray Mr. Belafonte doesn’t need the money from these sales just to survive. That would be tragic. As far as today’s actor and actresses there are a few that are really trying to do the right thing like Townsend, Glover, and Bassett.

    • I might not be remembering it right..but I think I read many years ago that the King family was left with limited financial resources after the murder of Dr. King. It was my understanding that Harry Belefonte provided the financial aid to send all of the King children to college. So he did not just support the Civil Rights movement..he directly supported the children of MLK. I do remember reading that after the MLK museum was opened…and the GW Bush and family let Mrs. King know that they were interested in attending the opening ceremony..Mrs. King dis-invited Harry Belefonte..as he had said some very negative (but true) things about Bush and his administration. I lost all respect for Mrs. King after reading that. Seems that she was more interested in “pomp and circumstance”, than sharing an important time with one who had been a true friend.

      • If I’m not mistaken BARBBF, I believe the incident you are referring to was Coretta Scott King’s funeral. I remember that the former president was planning to be at the ceremony at a time that Belafonte made some unfavorable comments about the president. The family then disinvited Mr. Belafonte from the funeral so hat they could get the president to speak. I distinctly remember how wrong I thought the family was for doing such a thing. I may be wrong, but I personally don’t remember Mr. Belafonte being disinvited to any other ceremonies by the King family. If what they say about He and Coretta having an affair after their father’s death, it’s possible that they could have a personal axe to grind with “Uncle Harry.”

      • BARBBF (You are absolutely right)
        Please read excerpts from SALON magazine below:

        MLK Jr. died not only without financial assets, but without a will. Despite his widely known premonitions concerning his own early demise (most noteworthy in speeches such as “If I Had Sneezed,” and his final speech in Memphis the night before he was slain), King died intestate. Although his wife Coretta had admonished him for years to set some funds aside for the higher education of their four children, King left his family with no appreciable benefits from his five books, hundreds of speaking engagements, his ministry, and of most concern to his wife, the $54,600 he earned as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. While Mrs. King thought some of the award money should be invested for the children’s sake, her husband donated the funds to the movement.

        Though he was a prolific writer and public speaker, King viewed his own financial sacrifice as a vow of relative poverty. In keeping with this ethos, King’s funeral procession featured not Cadillacs or Lincoln limousines, but a humble casket drawn by a mule carriage representative of his final mission, the Poor People’s Campaign. It was activists such as Harry Belafonte who raised money to ensure that the King children were supported through childhood and educated. The absence of a will has led to many court battles over the use and intellectual property of the leader’s written speeches, his image, recordings, and his literary works. Some related disputes have engendered rifts among King’s then-four surviving children (Yolanda died in 2008), and other close relatives. A will would have provided some direction in this regard.

  61. Were those items given to Mr. Belafonte? He did not have to steal them. Who knows the transaction? Only Mr. Belafonte.

  62. This is a legal matter between the two parties and is not the public’s business.

  63. Mr. Harry Belafonte is still fighting the good fight! He loves his “Black” people and he has given a great portion of his life and fortune to help move our causes forward! The King family are not putting forth even a percentage of the kind of drive and efforts Mr. Belafonte continues to give of his time and energy. If he is trying to sell artifacts which were given to him by Dr. King or he receieved in the process of helping Dr. King move us forward, he should be able to do so without delay. I know that he cares too much for us, but I don’t think members of the King family gives a damn about the rest of us. They want money no doubt! I’ve found that there are many African-Americans, “blacks” who have are very difficult time differentiating between those who mean us well and those who are sneaky, underhanded and selfish greed mongers. It’s to bad that they have such a mental block that they are unable to tell the difference between those who love us and wourd die for us and those who are out for their own greed and self aggrandizement!

    • Knowledge is Power

      This, unfortunately, is all too true. And so many passing judgment on this without knowing all of the facts, which by the way, too many of the news blurbs on this site provide so little information. I have praised this site in the past for bringing up important issues to the AA community but I’m beginning to feel like it is more of a gossip sheet.

      • None of the commenters here have any first hand knowledge about the items or the pending auction of the item. Mr. Belafonte is a man of advanced age and is doing the right thing with the items he has, in order to avoid others doing whatever they please with them, including fighting over them in the event that he passes away. Auctioning the items will allow the items to be displayed as a part of history for future generations. I hate the fact that some writers will post article with half truths and vague information in order to incite the readers to make uniformed comments, and otherwise disrespect a man who has and still to this day, continues to fight against injustice in this country and other parts of the world. When are “people of color” going to stop falling for the bait that ignites the kind of foolish comments about this man. I am ashamed that people are really quick to jump on the band wagon and help to verbally lynch other people of color, whenever these half-ass articles are written. Do some research and stop commenting on things that you have no knowledge of.

  64. Don’t know what happened to my first comment, but his supporters and loyalists cannot defend him trying to hawk and auction off himself and Dr. King’s belongings, which rightfully belong to his estate, therefore to his children. It looks worse than Jazy Z and Beyonce not financing the Black communities with their ‘Illuminati money’ as too many of you claim they have. Everything can’t be for sale….

  65. Jerome A. Washington

    It is the King children that should be ashamed of themselves. Mr. Bellafonte was very close to Dr. King and paid for his funeral and supported the family until they could support themselves. The slap in the face was when the children asked Mr. Bellafonte not to attend their mother’s funeral because then President Bush said he would attend.(Mr. Belafonte is an outspoken critic of President Bush). Just a side note, the King children do not have possession of the speech their father made at the 1963 March on Washington. It was given to a young volunteer. As for the new Hollywood black actors, they are too busy looking out for themselves and pretending they care. For most of them, if a camera is not following them they will not give up anything. Most think all is well because they did not have to go through what us “baby boomers” did.

  66. Its sad he ended up like this he stood up in prime of his career now he bending over in last dying days. What disgrace and he called out jay z he is a joke.

  67. Richard makes the most sense here.All the facts need be on the table before the non-legal,non-credentialed,unlicensed black critics start their ignoramus judgements.Not only do we have no facts. We have no context. No complete facts nor complete context gives us no bases for anything until the COMPLETES are made known. These comments are trash.This reporting is just as bad.Trashier.

    • Thanks great commentary we do not know how he got possession nor what he and King spoke before death. This may be away to draw the children close because during the 50th celebration it may have just been my observation the love and joy was not there. It is a struggle within the family…IJS

  68. We don’t have enough background information to answer that question – which by the way – is not at all about homosexuality. Harry Belafonte was in the trenches with Dr. King. Why shouldn’t he profit and a part of that legacy be translated into dollars while he is living. Hewas appiinted as the caretaker of the family while Dr. King was aluve amd continued in that rile after his death. Even if he was with his mother immediately or long after Dr. King’s death – the children have been very disrespectful to Harry as they have come into their own. They are thankless and forever standing on some moral high ground. For all we know – Coretta might have passed that letter on to him. It is not unusual to go through a dead man’s pockets before the body is taken away to the morgue – especially if that person is your dear friend! That letter was part of their movement and a momento that he felt justified in keeping OR may have been granted verbal permission to retain by Coretta. We do not have enough information though.

    Before we judge Harry too harshly get more background. The kids are interesting to say the least. Perhaps they have a story to tell too – but there is very little they could say which justifies their own behavior. Here is a link to an interview regarding his disinvite to Coretta King’s funeral and his gracious response. I admire him for taking a stand now.


    • Thank you for the link. I hope everyone who is so “DOWN” on MR. Belaonte, reads this article. I am SO PROUD of him. If he does need money, he should GET it.
      Dr. King would have wanted him to have it if he neeeded it. The King children, if the have a reason, should explain, GROW UP, AND get a “REAL” job. Apparently, who their parents were has very little impact of who they are.

  69. Faggit or not that type of Death Style only leads you straight to Harris & Ross so stop with that ********** BS! None of these House *****es would help today or Any Day because they are Bought & Paid for a Damn Dressed up Gay Prostitute & useless to other Black people! A **** is not to be trusted Within the Movement because He/She only wants to sleep with other Men or Women Dumbo! If these types of *****es are around I would do like Granny said & Feed them with a Long-Handle spoon Damn Sack chasers & BullDaggers! This is what makes some people Better than others your moral correctness if you have no Morals or Scruples you may as well go play frogger on the Freeway Dumbo! These Children of Dr King are a Shameful Bunch using their Dad like a Damn Credit Card but won’t stand-up like He did! He like the Hon Elijah Muhammad where the Bravest of our people & oh yeah their both from Georgia! Have you been to Morehouse lately Dr King’s University is Full of Punks & Booty-Bandits we have went Backwards like a MF! What does a Black Woman have to do to get a Mate for Marriage? This Gay BS is a trick by Planned Parenthood which is all in the Hood now they look to snatch your Manhood this trick was Orchestrated in 1972-73 with the Gay Convention in Chicago 1972 & The World of Psychology in 1973 before this time Homosexuality was a Mental illness! It’s Designed to get rid of you strange *****es keep playing Hide the Pickle with another Male!SMDH

  70. I do not think that people should so quick to judge or question someone’s motives. One of Dr. King’s most brilliant strategists was in fact a homosexual. Bayard Rustin .Homosexuality in no way diminishes his contribution to the greater good of our people. We have found ourselves in the socio-economic conundrum that has relegated us to the bottom of the American social order because we are not supportive of each other

  71. Like anything that requires a decision or judgement “all” the facts have to be present to make the right determination. Reading the various comments it seems that many “opinions” are made on speculations and inuendos and not facts. We don’t know “how” Mr. Belafonte acqired those items that once belong to Dr. King or Claretta Scott-King (President Johnson’s condolence letter). His reasons to sell them at a public auction is unbeknownest to us and we can speculate that he ‘needs’ the money, etc. I believe we need to get “all the facts” before we come to any conclusions about Mr. Belafonte’s character regarding this particular issue, one thing I do know, Harry Belafonte has been the most consistent black leader for the black community since Dr. King’s assassination back in 1968. I believe “that” in and of itself speaks volumes about his commitment, character and dedication for the bettterment of the black experience here in the U.S.

  72. Harry you’re wrong! Give the property to the family!Do you need the money that bad that you would sell Martin and his family out. Those items should have been turned over to Mrs.King long before she died.I am disappointed in you Harry.

  73. Harry Belafonte can NEVER truly consider hisself a TRUE friend of
    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, if he’s going to sell a speech & a letter that was to be given to Mrs. King in the first place. He’s an opportunist! GOD doesn’t sleep, & there is a place for everyone who tries to get over on others.

  74. He is a ******* why do u have a letter that was written n meant to go to ms king. She should be suing you for having that letter and given it to its rightful owner. He stole those letters and speeches out his pockets when he died to make money off his life. He is a disgrace to the black community. First robin thicke suing marvin gaye family so he don’t have to pay for stealing and using his music now this.

    • One must wonder is your comment, is total conjecture it seems like you must have only heard about this today. Many backers of the Civil Rights movement were given many items of sentimental value by those leaders. Just as the President and other lawmakers give pens and other mementos when historic laws are signed. You seem to allude that Belafonte stole papers out of a dead Man’s pocket while his family was in Atlanta. Jim Brown, M. Ali, Bill Russell and many others often help inspire these speeches and would be given them by M.L. King, Malcolm X, A. Phillip Randolph and others.

  75. Hopefully, the King Family and Harry Belafonte will come to an amicable agreement.That’s the problem,African Americans in Hollywood do not support movements designed to help African Americans today. We have no unity among ourselves, in order to uplift each other in our own communities,to build our own businesses.