1958 Martin Luther King Jr. Letter
Appraised Value: $10,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (2:34)
Books & Manuscripts
Senior Vice President & Senior Specialist, Rare Books and Manuscripts
GUEST: I went to an estate sale. They said there will be political memorabilia, which I collect, so I got very excited. The person whose house it was at, it was a biographer of Richard Nixon. He was a reporter and a writer of books.
APPRAISER: That's the fellow, Earl Mazo.
APPRAISER: And what did those items of political ephemera cost you?
GUEST: I bought a pile of letters for $20.
APPRAISER: Not a bad price.
GUEST: Not at all.
APPRAISER: And amongst those is this letter we're looking at now from Martin Luther King, Jr. Very characteristic signature, very strong signature. Written on stationery, "Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery, Alabama." And dated September 1958. Really right at the heart of the civil rights agitation nationwide. Very turbulent period. I think King was quite disappointed in Eisenhower and his take on the civil rights movement. And there's a lot of speculation at the time as to his views on civil rights and what might he do if he became president. Because it wasn't long before all these currents kind of came to a head during the Kennedy administration. But there's some remarkable passages in this letter. On Nixon he says, "I'm coming to believe that Nixon is absolutely sincere "in his views on this issue. "He happens to be a Quaker, "and there are very few Quakers who are prejudiced "from a racial point of view. "I also feel Nixon would have done much more "to meet the present crisis in race relations than President Eisenhower has done." And then on page two, after a very, very detailed analysis of Nixon and his policies, he concludes, "I would conclude by saying that if Richard Nixon is not sincere, he is the most dangerous man in America." What a striking phrase to use.
GUEST: I know, this is quite amazing.
APPRAISER: Well, content is extremely significant in valuing a piece like this. If I was doing an insurance appraisal, I would put $10,000 on it.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: It's one of the best Martin Luther King letters I've ever handled. Thank you for rescuing it from that estate sale.
GUEST: A pile of papers in a folder.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.