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Ownership of Martin Luther King Jr. documents disputed

The year 1968 was an uncertain and unsettling time in U.S. history. During this year, the U.S. was still embroiled in the Vietnam War as the civil rights movement grew increasingly violent at home. Many belive a critical turning point in our nation's history occurred on the evening of April 4, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Since that dark day, King's moving speeches and peaceful protests are often credited with helping bring about much-needed changes in American society. Today, Martin Luther King Jr. is regarded by many as an American hero, making anything associated with the late civil rights leader valuable.

Singer and entertainer Harry Belafonte was a close friend and supporter of the late King. As such, some of King's personal documents came into Belafonte's possession. The ownership of these documents, however, is at the center of an estate dispute between Belafonte and King's estate.

Belafonte recently filed a lawsuit against King's estate in which he is seeking to recover and retain several documents which he asserts were given to him by the late civil rights leader. In question are documents including two of King's speeches and a condolence letter related to King's untimely death from then President Lyndon Johnson.

King's estate and youngest daughter became aware that the documents were in Belafonte's possession after the singer attempted to auction off the documents in 2008. At that time, King's daughter and his estate asserted that Belafonte had "wrongfully acquired" the documents. Since that time, the documents have remained in possession of the auction house.

Belafonte recently filed an estate lawsuit against the King estate in which he seeks to recover the documents and claim rightful ownership.

Source: Reuters, "Belafonte sues King estate, daughter over ownership of documents," Oct. 17, 2013

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