Auctions | October 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Material Realizes $130,000+ at Heritage Auctions

NEW YORK—An unprecedented trove of material relating to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most famous and influential name in America’s storied Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s realized more than $130,000 on Oct. 17 at Heritage Auctions in New York as part of the company’s Historical Manuscripts event.

The material, more than 100 artifacts in all, were consigned to auction after more than half a century in the possession of 87-year-old Maude Ballou, Martin Luther King Jr.’s close friend and personal secretary. The grouping included King’s handwritten notes on eight cards containing the outline of his famed “Dexter Avenue Church Farewell Address,” circa 1960, which realized $31,250 as the top lot of the archive.

One of the highlights of the auction, what was thought to be a contemporary copy of the last page of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech sent to Maude Ballou (not the actual page King read from when he made the speech), was withdrawn by the house pending further research. The page is absolutely authentic to the archive and Dr. King, but further research is being undertaken to date it definitively to King’s most famous speech. 

Other highlights include two letters that King wrote to Ballou from India, one from Bangalore and another from Bombay, while King was in India studying the Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. The letters brought $18,750 and $17,500, respectively, along with two autograph draft chapters from his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, chapters III and IX, which both realized equal prices of $8,125.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and Maude Ballou’s "Distinguished NAACP Volunteer" cards, with a letter from the NAACP, realized $3,250.

“This was simply an unprecedented auction of amazing, evocative material that provides a ground-level perspective of the civil rights struggle,” said Sandra Palomino, Director of Historical Manuscripts at Heritage Auctions. “There was worldwide interest in the material and the emotional response to it was huge.”

Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800+ million, and 800,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit

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