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Martin Luther King Jr's Children Feud Over Selling Civil Rights Leader's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize

( [email protected] ) Jan 12, 2015 03:37 PM EST
Martin Luther King Jr's cherished Bible, along with his Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1964, is the subject of a bitter legal battle among the civil rights leader's children.
Martin Luther King Jr's estate is under legal scrutiny as the civil rights leader's children fight over the sale of important relics. Photo: Tavaana.org

Martin Luther King Jr's cherished Bible, along with his Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1964, is the subject of a bitter legal battle among the civil rights leader's children.

The Bible, which King travelled with during his famous civil rights marches, is estimated to bring in between $200,000 and $1 million to King's two sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King. The Nobel Peace Prize, on the other hand, is expected to bring in upwards of $10 million or more because of its significance in history. The two sons control King's estate and want to sell the important relics to a private buyer, but their sister, Bernice, doesn't agree with the sale.

Bernice controls the estate of her late mother, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006. The two sons have previously sold items from the late civil rights leader's estate, including over 10,000 books and papers that totalled $32 million, but Bernice feels that selling her father's Bible would be "spiritually violent" and "outright morally reprehensible".

"These items should never be sold to any person, as I say it, or any institution, because they're sacred," she said during a news conference. This is the fifth lawsuit filed between the siblings, but Bernice argues that this one crosses the line more than others. "I take this strong position for my father because Daddy is not here to say himself my Bible and medals are never to be sold."

King's colleague and fellow civil rights leader, Dr. Joseph Lowery, agreed with Bernice, stating in a recent interview with theGrio, "I don't even want to admit there's a discussion about putting those items on the market. They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they're sacred to the community. They represent Martin's life work and commitment to justice and serving God."

Martin Luther King Jr was not only a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the early 60s, but he was also a Baptist pastor and he formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

King began leading civil rights marches at a very early age, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to ten years later when he helped organize the famous march from Selma, Alabama -- a march that is memorialized in the blockbuster film 'Selma' that released on Christmas Day.

Both the Bible and the peace prize are locked away in an undisclosed security box and neither have been shown in public for many years. The Bible was last used to swear in President Obama during his second inaguration, which may also increase the book's value tremendously.

But because of the private nature of the estate and the lawsuit, the judge in the case can't rule whether the sons can or can't sell the book and medal. Bernice contends that her father gave the Nobel prize to his wife as a gift, so the basis of the lawsuit is over property rights.

A hearing is scheduled for January 13, but the case will go to trial if resolution is not made by then.