Sotheby’s has yanked three papers related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from auction after his estate claimed the documents, being sold by Harry Belafonte, are estate property, reports the Associated Press.
Sotheby’s spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said Belafonte himself asked that the papers be withdrawn from Thursday’s sale.
The documents, including a handwritten draft of King’s first anti-Vietnam war speech in 1967, had a collective pre-sale estimate of $750,000 to $1.3 million.
“The King estate believes the documents being offered in Thursday’s auction are a part of the wrongly acquired collection,” said a statement issued on behalf of the estate Wednesday by Isaac Farris, CEO of the King Center in Atlanta. “The King estate is currently in conversations with Sotheby’s to establish the truth.”
The King estate said unnamed members of the singer’s family previously tried to “anonymously and secretly” sell other such documents through a Beverly Hills, Calif., auction house. It said the estate managed to block that sale and the documents were returned to it, with an apology by the would-be sellers to Coretta Scott King. It did not cite a date for that incident.
As previously reported, Belafonte told The Associated Press that the papers were given to him by King or his wife after the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968.