Martin Luther King Jr. waving to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963
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President Lyndon B. Johnson’s April 5, 1968, letter of condolence to the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., dated the day after King was assassinated, has been a highly controversial document at the center of a legal battle, and now it is up for auction, the Washington Post reports.

In the historic letter, Johnson expresses his condolences to Coretta Scott King and adds that King’s assassin would be found.

“We will overcome this calamity,” Johnson wrote.

Years later, in 2003, Coretta Scott King gave the letter to singer Harry Belafonte, a staunch supporter and friend of her husband.


Around 2008, the Post reports, Belafonte thought to auction the letter through Sotheby’s after Coretta died, but the Kings’ three surviving children were against the plan, being particularly guarded regarding their father’s legacy.

This led to a lawsuit between Belafonte and the King estate after the estate claimed that the letter had been taken without permission, which ended any plans for a possible auction.


Belafonte was allowed to keep ownership of the letter after the two sides reached a settlement early last year.

Now the letter is set to go on the auction block in early March, just days after the 50th anniversary of the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., the Post notes.


However, Belafonte isn’t the one trying to sell. The new consignors are Shirley and Stoney Cooks, Belafonte’s half sister and brother-in-law. According to the Post, Belafonte gave the letter to Shirley Cooks as a symbol of his appreciation for her support during the legal fallout.

The minimum bid for the historic letter is $60,000, although Quinn’s Auction Galleries, where the sale is set up, thinks it could net at least $120,000.


Read more at the Washington Post.