Fresh on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, his personal secretary is set to auction off a page from the iconic address, along with more than 100 other items, the Associated Press reports.
Maude Ballou worked as King’s secretary from 1955 to 1960, when King led the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Ballou, who turned 88 Friday, is selling the items Oct. 17 in New York through Texas-based Heritage Auctions. People can bid in person or online. Ballou and Heritage Auctions say a portion of the proceeds will be used to establish an education fund at Alabama State University.
Several handwritten items from King to Ballou are reportedly up for auction.
Items awaiting sale include a handwritten letter King sent to Ballou while touring India in 1959 to learn more about Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign of nonviolent resistance. One part of the letter asks Ballou to write a note to John Lee Tilley, executive director of the SCLC. King wanted Tilley to talk with a white activist who was advising King on nonviolent resistance.
Another item is a typed final page of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, according to the auction house. The page was sent to Ballou on Jan. 31, 1968, several weeks before King was assassinated, by Lillie Hunter, bookkeeper for the SCLC and secretary to Ralph Abernathy.
Other items include King’s handwritten notes for a 1959 speech to inform his congregation that he would be leaving Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama, where he served as pastor in the 1950s and was involved in the Montgomery bus boycott.
In September 2011, King’s estate sued Ballou’s son, Howard, in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., to take possession of the items. The estate, a private company operated by his children, is known for exerting tight control over the King brand.
U.S. District Judge Tom Lee dismissed the lawsuit on March 23, saying there was nothing to contradict Maude Ballou’s testimony that King gave her the material and that the statute of limitations had passed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the decision based on the statute of limitations.