his “I Have a Dream Speech” delivered at the 1963 March on Washington, Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said he dreamed of the day his children would be judged
not by the color of their skin but the content of their character. If Dr. King
had known how Martin III, Dexter and Bernice would later fight over money generated
by commercially exploiting his name, he might have omitted any reference to their
character. When it comes to money, King’s remaining children have no character.
latest of many examples is their profiting from the construction of the Washington,
D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. They – and all Americans – should be grateful
that Harry E. Johnson, Sr. and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity had the vision and
unflagging commitment to believe they could erect a memorial to Dr. King on the
National Mall. Last year, the 30-foot, 8-inch statue of King was unveiled, dwarfing
the 19-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson and the Abraham Lincoln memorial, which
is 19 feet, 6 inches.
of being satisfied with this impressive memorial to their father – the first
monument to an African American on the Mall – the King children saw dollar
signs. They have collected more than $3 million in licensing fees from the
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. The fees were
charged in exchange for allowing the foundation to use King’s words and
likeness in fundraising appeals and as part of the memorial complex itself.
Johnson has raised $119 million of the $120 million needed to build the
memorial. But I doubt that any donor gave money to the project with the
expectation that the King children would be able to line their pockets with their
Garrow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning King biographer, told the Associated Press
that Dr. King would have been “absolutely scandalized by the profiteering
behavior of his children.” He added, “I don’t think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln
family…I don’t think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a
licensing fee for a memorial in Washington. One would think any family would be
so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that
it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny.”
King family is not looking for pennies or dollars. They are looking for
millions. They are already making millions from King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”
King was a very public man, giving a public speech at the Lincoln Memorial, yet
the King children claim that he was a private citizen and therefore they are
entitled to profit from his public pronouncements. They successfully sued CBS
to prevent the network from airing the “I Have a Dream Speech” – without paying
would they win such a suit today? Fortunately for them, people are willing to
give them a pass because they are Dr. King’s dysfunctional children, not
because of anything they have done. Private citizens don’t have federal
holidays named in their honor. Monuments aren’t erected to them on the National
Mall. If Dr. King isn’t a public figure, no one is.
worse than charging the foundation that erected the King Memorial for use of
King’s words and images, the King family has now told the Martin Luther King,
Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation that their licensing agreement has
expired and the family will not extend it. Not even for a sizeable fee. And by
the way, the foundation can no longer use King in its name and will have to
change that, too..
what is their angle? You know the money grubbing Kings had to have one. Bernice
King, CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, announced a year-long celebration
leading to the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream”
are excited by the four days of activities we have organized to commemorate my
father’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, in cooperation with the MLK, Jr. National
Historic Site and the CDC,” she said. “As we launch the year-long countdown to
the global observance of the 50th anniversary, the Dreamkeepers
Program events will help us address the still relevant challenge of creating a
more just society through nonviolent activism.”
King Center – which has been managed by Dexter, Martin III and now Bernice –
hopes to raise $170 million from the events.
famous march was about more than a young preacher from Atlanta delivering a
sterling speech that mesmerized the nation. Rather, it was called the March on
Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was organized by A. Philip Randolph, president
of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
an official Black unemployment rate of 14.4 percent, the emphasis should again
be on jobs, not Dr. King’s speech.
a focus on jobs wouldn’t put any money into the King coffers. And they’ve already
shown that is one of their major objectives. They had arranged for Sotheby to
auction King’s papers in 2006. But Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin stepped in
and organized a private group that paid $32 million for the papers and donated
them to Morehouse College, King’s alma mater.
he been alive, that’s something Dr. King probably would have done. But unlike
his children, he wouldn’t do it to make a buck.
George E. Curry,
former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National
Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of
Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.
Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also
follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.
University of Texas’ History of Racism
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