Sotheby's said the papers were removed "at the request of Mr. Harry Belafonte" Thursday, one day before the start of the Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana sale began at the auction house, Artinfo reported Friday.
The New York Times identified the three King items as a handwritten script of King's February 1967 "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech, notes for an unproduced speech found in King's suit pocket after his 1968 assassination and a condolence letter sent from President Lyndon B. Johnson to King's widow, Coretta Scott King.
King's estate released a statement before the papers were pulled from the auction sharply criticizing the planned sale.
"The King estate contends that these documents are the property of the estate of Martin Luther King Jr.," the statement read. "Mrs. Coretta Scott King and the King estate stopped a previous attempt by members of Harry Belafonte's family to anonymously and secretly auction wrongfully acquired King documents through a Beverly Hills auction house."