ANTIQUES & CLLECTING: $30M Martin Luther King Auction That Never Was; Richard Edmonds Reports on the Private Sale of the Martin Luther King Jr. Archive That Escaped Auction to Return to Atlanta

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Byline: Richard Edmonds

A scheduled Sotheby's auction has resulted in the sale that never was, in that the most significant archive of one of the greatest reformers of the 20th century has been bought outright and is now preserved for posterity in his hometown.

After nearly a decade's joint effort by Sotheby's and the King Estate to place the archive in an appropriate institution, the Martin Luther King Jr. Collection was scheduled to be sold on June 30 this year.

A monumental narrative and descriptive catalogue of the collection was therefore published, and a vast public exhibition was mounted displaying thousands of awe-inspiring items from Dr King's hand including his earliest theological writings from his undergraduate days at Morehouse College.

The exhibition, which drew hundreds of thousands of visitors, included King's sermons from every period of his life, texts of his most important speeches and addresses, including the famous "The Dream" speech, his Nobel Prize acceptance speech and lecture and drafts of various publications including his books Strength to Love and Why We Can't Wait as well as the magisterial Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Then there was King's 1,000-volume personal library with many of the classic texts of sociology, theology, philosophy, religion, history and literature closely annotated by him and the library included an extensive correspondence from political leaders such as Dwight D Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, John and Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. …