In early 2021 at an auction, a family sold 12 rare autographs of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. If one didn’t know any better, the two yellowed pages—excerpted from an old logbook—could easily have been confused for valueless scrap paper. Instead, the document was a rare surviving artifact of King’s eight-day Alabama incarceration in 1963. During this time he wrote “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” his famous manifesto on non-violent civil disobedience.
The pages sold for more than $130,000 at the auction.
This historical treasure could easily have wound up in the trash. A jailor was ordered to throw the logbook away but instead recognized its significance. In defiance of orders, he saved the archive. It was then kept by his family for decades.