York County auction house puts logbook pages MLK signed in Birmingham jail up for bid

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd at the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights in Chicago on June 21, 1964.

An auction house based in York County is auctioning off a historical document with Martin Luther King Jr.'s signatures. 

The item offered online by Hake's Auctions consists of four logbook pages from the Birmingham, Alabama, jail where King was incarcerated in 1963.

Twelve of King's signatures are found on the pages, where he signed the logbook to receive communication from the outside world.

Additionally, the documents include five signatures from King's friend and mentor Ralph Abernathy. 

Closeup view of the Birmingham Jail logbook signed several times by Martin Luther King Jr.

The online auction closes Feb. 24. The pages had garnered five bids at more than $14,000 as of Monday morning. 

Hake's Auctions President Alex Winter said a jail employee was told to destroy the documents but instead preserved them when their significance was recognized. Winter said the documents changed hands several times over about 58 years before  the current owner offered them to the auction house. 

According to the item's description on the auction house website, this is the first time the documents are available to the public. 

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King was booked into the Birmingham jail for his participation in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation in the city. The period in which King signed the logbook includes the days when he wrote his now famous manifesto "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which was written in response to an article written by eight white clergymen called "A Call for Unity" that criticized the civil rights demonstrations at the time. 

In the 54 years Hake's Auctions has been open, Winter said he's been able to pre-assign a value to the vast majority of the items offered for sale. This is one of the rare times he said he is unable to predict how much the item will sell for. 

"This is one of those X-factor items," Winter said. 

In 2015, the auction house sold a book written and autographed by King for more than $49,000, according to the website. Winter said he considers the logbook pages to be of greater value. 

Winter said he expects the pages to garner dozens of bids and can't predict how much the final bid will end at. He said their auctions usually receive the most bids near the end of the bidding period. The book that sold for more than $49,000 saw its value double in the final days before it was auctioned off, he said. 

"We trust (the pages') next caretaker will be as stirred by the aura of history it radiates just as much we are," the item's description reads.