Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 10.24.2001]
heirs want a cut of D.C. memorial
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial has hit
a snag -- the King family.
Wednesday, the King Center issued this public
The family is demanding a licensing fee to use King's
name and likeness in a marketing campaign designed to
get sponsors to contribute money toward construction of
the monument, which would be alongside memorials to
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on the
The organization formed to raise the $100 million
needed for the King memorial say this makes their job
"The holdup seems to be they want us to do a
licensing agreement with them," said Harry Johnson,
president of the Washington-based Martin Luther King
Memorial Project. "We are trying to come to terms
with what that agreement would be. I am not saying that
is wrong, we just have to figure out what it is."
While the King family has recently been criticized
for profiting from King's name and image, potential
sponsors for the project could be doing just that
themselves. According to Johnson, the marketing plan for
the memorial could involve sponsors' using King's image
in the same way corporations use the Olympic rings.
Johnson said several corporations, such as Tommy
Hilfiger and General Motors, have been identified as
potential and eager sponsors.
Efforts Tuesday to reach members of the King family
and the executive director of The King Center, Tricia
Harris, for comment were unsuccessful.
"Within the next year and a half, we wanted to
have all the money in hand," said Johnson.
"This is going to slow things down, in terms of
large money donations. But we are going to continue with
our plans. We can't sit and wait."
Corporations are going to be hesitant to sign on to
the project if they are not sure how the money would be
disbursed, Johnson said. He said the family hasn't given
the foundation a fee to work with, so he is unsure if
they want a percentage of all sponsorships, or a set
"How much is a question best answered by the
King family," said Johnson. "I am willing to
do what I need to do ... because it is too important to
the American people."
Money issues and how King's survivors are compensated
for the use of his likeness and writings have dogged the
family for years. Recently, King's image was used in
commercials for Atlanta-based Cingular, a cellular
telephone company, and Alcatel, a French company. In the
Alcatel spot, a digital image of King, in front of the
Lincoln Memorial, delivers his historic speech to an
Some have called the spots -- particularly the
Cingular ad, which King shares with, among others,
Kermit the Frog and Homer Simpson -- offensive.
While profiting from King's image and likeness, the
family also has sued some organizations for using King's
words without permission.
In 1999, a potential sale of King's papers to the
Library of Congress was derailed when the family
insisted on retaining copyright control, and therefore
future royalties from their use. This was in addition to
selling the papers to the library for $20 million, which
in itself would have been unprecedented. The library has
put the purchase on hold.
Johnson said the foundation is trying to raise $100
million over the next 18 months to fund the memorial,
which will be built on 4 acres on the shore of the Tidal
Basin, halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and
Washington Monument. It was to be finished by November
King, a native of Atlanta who received the Nobel
Peace Prize for his leadership of the U.S. civil rights
movement, will be the first African-American honored
with his own memorial at the National Mall.
In September 2000, the design of a San
Francisco-based architectural firm was picked out of a
pool of 900 candidates. The design features walls
inscribed with King's words and a towering stone
structure at the entrance. Into the stone will be
sculpted King's profile and his "promissory
note" passage, in which he declares America owes
black Americans freedom and fairness. King's profile
will face the memorial to Thomas Jefferson.