Question

Approximately four years before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave Boston University possession of some of his correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers. He did this pursuant to a letter, which read as follows: On this 16th day of July, 1964, I name the Boston University Library the Repository of my correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers, along with a few of my awards and other material which may come to be of interest in historical and other research. In accordance with this action I have authorized the removal of most of the above-mentioned papers and other objects to Boston University, including most correspondence through 1961, at once. It is my intention that after the end of each calendar year, similar files of materials for an additional year should be sent to Boston University. All papers and other objects which thus pass into the custody of Boston University remain my legal property until otherwise indicated, according to the statements below. However, if, despite scrupulous care, any such materials are damaged or lost while in custody of Boston University, I absolve Boston University of responsibility to me for such damage or loss.
I intend each year to indicate a portion of the materials deposited with Boston University to become the absolute property of Boston University as an outright gift from me, until all shall have been thus given to the University. In the event of my death, all such materials deposited with the University shall become from that date the absolute property of Boston University. Sincerely, Martin Luther King, Jr. Acting in her capacity as administrator of Dr. King's estate, his widow, Coretta Scott King, sued Boston University, alleging that the King Estate, not BU, owned the papers that had been housed in the BU Library's special collection since the 1964 delivery of them. BU contended that it owned them because Dr. King had made an enforceable charitable pledge to give them to BU. Was Dr. King's promise to give ownership of his papers to BU enforceable?



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  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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