1958 Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter
Appraised Value: $10,000 (2010)
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (2:38)
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. There was 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.
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