ATLANTA (AP) – Morehouse College President Walter Massey says Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater will receive the more than 10,000 handwritten documents and books from the King estate that have been housed at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.

In an effort led by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a coalition of businesses, individuals and philanthropic leaders have come together to purchase the King Collection, Massey said, adding that the college was intimately involved in the negotiations.

The collection, which had been valued by Sotheby’s at $15 million to $30 million, had been scheduled to be auctioned off June 30. Massey said the Atlanta group offered more than that.

“I don’t know the exact figure, but it’s more than $30 million,” Massey told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday night. “My understanding is that the auction is off.”

Sotheby’s Vice Chairman David Redden confirmed that the auction will no longer take place, though the public exhibition of the King Collection will continue through Thursday.

“I can’t imagine a better home than the home of Dr. King for this collection,” Redden told The Associated Press. “It was there for years, it’s going to be there forever. I think that’s a marvelous conclusion to this extraordinary process. It guarantees that it will be looked after properly and made available to the public.”

Redden would not disclose the purchase price, but said Morehouse College will acquire the collection.

Andrew Young, a lieutenant of King’s during the civil rights movement, became overcome with emotion when discussing the deal Friday night.

“People have seen this as an opportunity to step up and lay claim to Martin Luther King’s nonviolent heritage as a part of Atlanta’s tradition,” Young said. “It really didn’t belong anywhere else. The people who responded…it just lets you know who really understand and appreciates what Atlanta has done for them. Of course, in the process, they’ve done a lot for Atlanta.”

Franklin did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Atlanta is the birthplace of King and where he and his wife, Coretta, are buried.

The city was the sentimental favorite in the bidding and was rumored to have stiff competition from others across the country, including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, Duke University, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.

Coretta Scott King’s death in January was a catalyst for the sale, as her will calls for the liquidation of her estate.

The collection includes items ranging from canceled checks, to a term paper he wrote as a student at Morehouse, to a draft of his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” delivered at the 1963 March on Washington. As a requirement of the sale, the collection had to be bought as a single lot. If it is resold, it cannot be broken up as long as the Kings’ children are alive.

Before the sale, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., was hopeful that the papers would end up at an institution in the South that can publicly display them. Lewis, who represents Atlanta, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the height of the civil rights movement and the youngest person to speak at the 1963 March on Washington.

“Atlanta is the home of the modern-day civil rights movement in America, and I think that’s where the papers should be,” he said.

Seven years ago, the Library of Congress offered $20 million for the collection. Negotiations stagnated a year later after historians debated the value of the papers. Sotheby’s also failed to sell the collection three years ago after it was displayed on the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Morehouse College is an all-male historically black college near downtown Atlanta. The 139-year-old school stands as the largest private, liberal arts college in the country for men with 2,800 students, and one of only four all-male colleges in the U.S. The school’s other famous alumni include actor Samuel L. Jackson, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and film director Spike Lee.

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On The Net:

Sotheby’s: http://www.sothebys.com

Morehouse College: http://www.morehouse.edu

AP-ES-06-24-06 1051EDT


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