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Siblings Block African American Museum From MLK Jr.'s Artifacts

For years, the siblings have blocked media outlets from using King's words or image without baying what some have described as exorbitant licensing fees. When the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture opens on Sept. 24, no major artifacts from the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. will be on display. According to the, this is primarily because of King's children, Bernice, Martin III and Dexter. For years, the siblings "have blocked media outlets from using King's words or image without paying what some have described as exorbitant licensing fees." They have also taken each other to court repeatedly. Most recently,

Martin and Dexter sued Bernice over who has the authority to sell King's Nobel Peace Prize and traveling Bible. Former President Jimmy Carter was brought in to help mediate an agreement about it. When that didn't work, a judge settled the matter instead — giving the brothers the right to sell the Nobel Prize and Bible. Martin III contacted the museum with an offer to loan the Bible and Nobel Peace Prize, but only for a large profit, according to the Washington Post. "[The Bible] was heavier than I thought it would be," remembers Rex Ellis, the museum's associate director of curatorial affairs. "Not only was it the weight of the object itself but the weight of what it was. You're holding it like it's a baby. I was uncomfortable holding it for long."

"It's outrageous," said Clarence Jones, the former King attorney who filed the copyright for his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. "This is the Smithsonian. This is not just another party. This is one of the most important institutions now in the 21st century. And this is probably the greatest civil rights leader in the 20th century. I find it shameful and I'm sad." Historian David J. Garrow said he's not surprised that the museum will open without a single item loaned by the King family. "I could not be more cynical, more jaded on this subject," said Garrow, who won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for his book "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference." "Given the family's behavior this last 20 years, they're unlikely to have any interest in sharing without a large upfront payment."

The Reporter Newspaper
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