USA Today Editorial Board says the Children of Dr. King Have Shown the ‘Content of Their Character’ and It’s Not Pretty


His dream was for his children to “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” They’ve shown the content of their character.

As the nation celebrates the birthday of the man who more than anyone inspired the movement to give America’s black citizens equal rights, you can find the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in commercials from Alcatel, AT&T, Apple, Chevrolet and Mercedes. If you want to watch his stirring “I Have a Dream” address from the 1963 March on Washington, you can pay $20 to buy the DVD from an online shop under the control of his heirs.

While there are versions of one of the most renowned speeches in American history posted on YouTube, King’s heirs generally limit the reach of their father’s words and his image. They have deployed lawyers to sue those (including USA TODAY, CBS and the producers of a PBS documentary) who publish or broadcast his words without first paying a licensing fee. King’s heirs even challenged singer Harry Belafonte — a close friend of King who helped support King’s children after their father was assassinated in 1968 — to try to force him to give up documents Belafonte said he had been given.

The family rarely comments on its aggressive marketing or its frequent litigation, but King’s youngest son, Dexter, protested in his 2003 memoir that “people don’t want us, as the heirs, the estate, to benefit … or for my family to be in any way comfortable.”

They should be more than comfortable. In 2006, the heirs sold King’s papers for $32 million, prompting an estimate that they have made some $50 million from their father’s legacy.

The cashing in continues. In 2007, the family demanded and got $761,000 to use King’s words and likeness on the memorial to the civil rights leader on the National Mall. Most recently, the movie Selma, which documents King’s role in pivotal civil rights marches in Alabama, had to invent much of King’s dialogue because his actual words had been licensed to another film.

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Source: USA Today

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