The Assosciated Press is reporting today that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King‘s Jr.’s family has charged the foundation raising money to build King’s memorial on the National Mall $80,000 in licensing fees. The fees were leveled for using King’s images and words on fundraising materials—-the ones designed to encourage private donations for the “Stone of Hope,” the granite statue depicting the Civil Rights leader.
The AP found the fees in its review of financial documents and called around for reaction. Cambridge University historian David Garrow says he is “absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of [King’s] children….One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny.”
The company that collected the fees put out a statement backing up the practice because people “believe all ‘King’ fundraising initiatives are interrelated and don’t donate to the King Center, thinking they have already supported it by donating to the memorial.” The licensing fees were directed to the center in Atlanta where King and his wife are entombed and where their children serve as chairman and members of the board.
The memorial is being built on the northeast corner of the Tidal Basin with about $110 million in private donations and $10 million from Congress. When completed, it will be donated to the National Park Service. Local NPS spokesman Bill Line says he’s never heard about the family of the subject of a memorial charging fees while money is being raised to build it. NPS, he says, will investigate.