Opinion: King family makes a fortune from father’s legacy

Robert Thomas Young

Robert Thomas Young

Contact Robert Thomas Young at [email protected]

Most people would be honored by the building of a monument for their father, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s family charged approximately $800,000 in licensing fees to the nonprofit foundation that built his memorial for the use of King’s inspiring words, and that is just the beginning.

They also sued cable networks years ago for airing his “I have a dream” speech, and if you want access to the inspirational speech yourself, you will have to buy an audio or video tape from the family’s website for $10. The idea of his family capitalizing from his impact on civil rights is inexcusable. King was an activist, not an entertainer, and his contributions should be treated as such.

King spent most of his life in poverty, barely making ends meet as he crusaded for the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and I think he would be absolutely appalled by the scandalous behavior of his children.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Garrow, who wrote a biography of King, has quite a few choice words about the King family, noting the difference between them and other descendants of historical figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

“I don’t think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington,” Garrow said, remarking that King would be disgusted by his children’s clamor for money on the back of his work in civil rights.

King’s family runs his foundation along with Intellectual Properties Management Inc., which happens to charge absorbent fees for licensing of his speeches. The litigation and profiteering of King’s legacy is atrocious, but I think it points to a more troubling issue at hand.

In the past four decades, the hardworking, ingenious nature of the American spirit has been coalesced with greed and compulsory progress in a way that contaminates our culture. Look at our economic structure and the way it has transformed in less than half a century.

The intent of the stock market was to provide a marketplace for people to invest in businesses that they wanted to help grow or thought would succeed. The computer-controlled, global stock market today is a world of probability and intended rises and falls, all which plays into the hands of those who know how to manipulate the system.

There is little virtue left in our economy, and the same holds true for the management of most companies. Profit is what is shown on a business prospectus, not the great working conditions of the employees or how the company better serves its customers.

Greed is the underlying common denominator in most of our societal problems, and it is why the King family doesn’t have to think twice before defecating on his legacy by profiting from it. It is the same reason that the CEOs, CFOs and COOs who caused the financial meltdown made billions while the rest of the economy barely survives.

It is why our political process is controlled by lobbyists and why we decide to invade some countries while ignoring the mass genocide of millions in others. It is why many are forced to work overtime while more than 40 million Americans continue to be unemployed, and it is why the words of a great leader like King have been monopolized and exploited just like a $10 bag of popcorn at the movie theater.