ECBA filed a federal lawsuit in New York last week on behalf of Harry Belafonte, human rights activist and music legend. In his lawsuit, Mr. Belafonte seeks the return of three historic documents given to him by the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Mr. Belafonte and Dr. King worked closely together throughout the Civil Rights movement and forged a deep and enduring personal friendship. The three documents given to Mr. Belafonte are an outline for Dr. King’s now famous “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam” speech, Dr. King’s notes from another, undelivered speech to be given in Memphis, Tennessee that were found in Dr. King’s suit pocket after he was assassinated in 1968, and a condolence letter sent by President Lyndon Johnson to Mrs. King after Dr. King’s assassination.
The documents have been in the possession of Sotheby’s auction house in New York since 2008, when the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr, Inc. and Bernice King, on behalf of the estate of Coretta Scott King, asserted that Mr. Belafonte obtained the documents from a wrongfully acquired collection. No shred of evidence has been offered to support this claim.
Mr. Belafonte seeks to put an end to the current situation in which the Estate and Bernice King have prevented him from recovering the documents. Mr. Belafonte is represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., and Vasudha Talla, and Prof. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.