The mark of a King

A 53-year-old book signed by Martin Luther King Jr. was discovered at nearby Grant High School.

By Henry Guembes, Staff Writer

It is not uncommon to find marked-up books in a public school library; however, few hold as much weight as the one found at Grant High School this summer.

A dusted and worn hardcover copy of “Strength to Love,” written by Martin Luther King Jr., was discovered by LAUSD teacher-librarian Candace Seale in Grant High School’s library while she was discarding outdated and damaged books. Seale discovered King’s signature inside upon further inspection. The tome was presented to Principal Vicky Damonte last summer. After a wearing process of verification, the finding of this piece was made public during the last week of Black History Month. Initially, feelings were mixed.

“I was shocked,” said Damonte. “We were all so excited, but we also didn’t know for a fact if it was real.”

“Best wishes, Martin Luther King,” reads King’s blue-ink signature in an empty page of the book, first published in 1963. There is no documentation indicating how the autographed book got to the Valley Glen campus, but King visited Los Angeles in 1965 due to the Watts riots. Whether there is any direct correlation has yet to be confirmed.

Appraisers at Duveen & Edwards valued this copy of King’s sermons at $525.

“We made sure to send it to professionals,” Damonte said. “At firstwe were really hoping it was real, trying to get it authenticated wasn’t easy. The process overall took a long time. Even today, it’s still crazy to think Martin Luther King actually signed this book.”

As a Grant High School graduate herself, Damonte says this discovery gives the institution a sense of “pride and attraction.”

Future plans for the autographed book have not been officially decided yet, but Seale, who first came across the hardback, hopes it stays at the campus where it was uncovered.

“I would love for it to be displayed at Grant—that’s its home,” said Seale in a press release from the LAUSD. “It needs to stay there so that students know that Dr. King was there, or that someone thought enough about those students to put the book in their collection.”

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