Controversy over Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Papers at BU

[caption id="attachment2197" align="alignleft" width="217"]<a href="">MLK Martin Luther King, Jr. Courtesy of the US Information Agency. Click here for more stories on MLK.[/caption]

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy lives on today, as it probably always will. Part of that legacy includes his papers, a third of which he donated to Boston University a few years before his assassination in 1968.

Twenty years after his death, his widow Coretta Scott King, sued Boston University for possession of the papers. While the University held tight to the letter from King bestowing ownership of the papers on BU, Mrs. King claimed that her husband had wanted his papers to eventually join the other two thirds that are held by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Her lawyers argued that the letter was not legally binding as a will, while the University asserted that if Dr. King had wanted to change the terms of the letter he could have done so at any time.

[caption id="attachment2198" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href="">BU Student Interview Boston University student interviewed about the ownership of MLK's papers. Watch the full story.[/caption]


The case caused quite a controversy, which Ten O'Clock News reporter Marcus Jones covered in a April 1, 1988 story. The new story contains a great overview of the case, as well as interviews with many BU students about their opinions on the controversy. The students' opinions vary widely.

Eventually the case went to trial in 1993. For those interested, you can check out the official Suffolk Superior Court documents. After a two week trial, the jury voted 10-2 in favor of the University, who still maintains ownership of the papers to this day. They can be accessed through their Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.



"Dr. King's Widow Finally Has Her Day in Court." New York Times (New York, NY), Apr. 30, 1993. Accessed Jan. 17, 2014.

"Widow loses suit for King's papers as jury back Boston University." Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), May 7, 1993. Accessed Jan. 17, 2014.