I admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because of the ideas he stood for and because he was willing to put his own life on the line for them. It takes great courage and sacrifice to do such a thing. He wasn't perfect but I'll forgive his weaknesses in favor of what he did for the greater good. While I admire Dr. King, I am not a fan of Coretta Scott King or her children. Sure Mrs. King supported civil rights in her own way and she inspired many but unfortunately in my eyes, her greediness and that of her children overshadow for me any good they might have done. I just don't care for their exploitation of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
A few years ago Congress made an offer of $20 million to the family to purchase a large collection of Dr. King's papers for the Library of Congress but when the family insisted they retain the copyrights after the sale, the government rescinded its offer. The family then contacted Sotheby's and is still waiting for an offer from someone....anyone.
Many years ago CBS introduced a video collection titled "The 20th Century with Mike Wallace," which of course included a piece from the "I have a dream" speech. The family, who has spent the better part of their lifetime making a lot of money from the death of their husband and father, was appalled and Dexter Scott King was quoted as saying "It has to do with the principle that if you make a dollar, I should make a dime." CBS and the family of MLK finally settled on an agreement which included CBS making a tax-deductible contribution to the King Center in Atlanta. Frankly I agreed with CBS' stance on the issue and was angered they were strong-armed into a settlement. CBS has every right to make use of their own news footage. The King family does NOT own the rights to that.
In another case, the King family sued Boston University in 1993 in an attempt to take back thousands of documents that the Reverend had donated from the earlier years of his career. Thankfully, the King family lost their suit.
In 1985, a journalist named Leonard Pitts asked the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta for an interview with Mrs. King and for permission to use an old audio of Dr. King for a radio program. He was told to pay $5,000 or no interview.
In 1993 the King family sued USA TODAY for reprinting the infamous "I Have a Dream" speech when they did a piece commemorating Dr. King's birthday.
The King family allowed a cell phone comapny to use Dr. King's famous speech in television ads and then informed news agencies they would be required to pay to use clips of Dr. King's speech.
The King family fought a proposal by the National Park Service to build a visitor's center near the King Center in Atlanta because the family wanted to build a for-profit museum of their own. Fortunately the family lost the fight and the visitor's center was built.
The King family also demanded they should receive payment to allow construction of a memorial monument to Dr. King on the Washington Mall.
Dexter King once met with the people who manage the Elvis Presley estate to get an idea of how to market their own father's estate.
The King Center in Atlanta is in dire need of about $11 million in serious repairs. And isn't it interesting that in the last five years, about $4 million of that "repair" money has been paid to a company owned by none other than Dexter King. Meanwhile the King sons earn six-figure salaries in their positions at the King Center. Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, a friend of the late Dr. King and his family once said" "A lot of money needs to go into maintenance, and that can't be the responsibility of the family."
And by the way, the King Center receives more than a million dollars in taxpayer funded federal grants every year.
The King children are notorious for fighting amongst themselves in the matter of how business should be handled. It even got to the point where one brother changed the locks on the King Center's administration building so the other brother could not get in.
All this while the blue "eternal flame" that lights the tomb of Dr. King, just suddenly one day, extinguished on its own, to the astonishment of visitors who simply watched in amazement.
Dr. King was not a merchant with a product to be sold for profit. He was an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision that meant so much to him he was willing to die for it. Dr. King did not invent the vision, nor did he own a patent or copyright to it because it belonged to all of us. His vision for America was shared by millions.
And so it has always appalled and disgusted me that the family of Dr. King exploits his memory by commercializing his vision instead of freely and openly giving it the people, where it belongs, where Dr. King wanted it to be.