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.” (…)
Mr. Belafonte’s ties to Dr. King’s children started to fray in 2006, when Mrs. King died, and her children did not invite him to her funeral because of his support for President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
That same year, the family arranged to sell about 10,000 of Dr. King’s sermons, speeches, letters and other papers through Sotheby’s. The sale was called off at the last minute, when the City of Atlanta bought the collection for $32 million and gave it to Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater.