Was Emory University Given the Cold Shoulder During Negotiations for Dr. King’s Papers?

When it was announced that the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. were going to be auctioned, Emory University in Atlanta was mentioned as a potential buyer of the collection. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that when it was revealed that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was attempting to arrange funding to keep the papers in Atlanta, Emory offered to contribute $3 million to the effort. Emory also volunteered its facilities to house the collection and its expertise in archiving the documents. But when the deal was completed, Emory had no part in the group that bought the documents for $32 million. Emory was not even listed as among the places where the documents could be displayed.

The Journal-Constitution reports that there was a longstanding distrust of Emory by members of the King family. Some reports suggested that people associated with Emory had scoffed at the King’s family offering price, claiming that the documents were not as valuable as the family believed. The family felt that low-ball estimates of the collection’s value were circulated so that it could be purchased at a lower price if the auction had taken place.