MLKJ Was Almost Assassinated 10 Years Early

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

In A Nutshell

In 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. was performing a book signing in a Harlem book store. He was confronted by one Izola Curry, a 42-year-old mentally ill black woman. She stabbed him with a letter opener and came so close to killing him instantly that the blade was against his aorta. It was later determined that if King had so much as sneezed after the stabbing it might have killed him. True to form, he said of it “I think she needs help.”

The Whole Bushel

Martin Luther King Jr. is so respected and so significant today that society constantly looks for ways to blemish his image. We like to hear about his marital infidelity and we’re all probably anticipating the time in 2027 when the recordings the FBI illegally obtained of him will be declassified. J. Edgar Hoover promised that it includes audio of him having sex and joking about the recent death of Kennedy among other things. But one particularly dark episode from his life is not often discussed, considering the impact it could have had on the civil rights movement.

On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem doing a signing for his book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. There, in Blumstein’s Department Store, he had the misfortune to run into Izola Curry, a 42-year-old black housekeeper from Adrian, Georgia. When she met him, she confirmed that the person she was addressing really was Dr. King and then stabbed him in the chest with an 18-centimeter (7 in) letter opener she took from her purse. When Curry was later apprehended by the police, it was revealed that she also had a loaded gun in her possession.

Curry was operating under the belief that King’s actions in Alabama had forced her and other people like her to change jobs and religion in addition to suspicions that that King was connected to the Communist Party. In fact when she was told of the charges that were going to be filed against her, she said “I’m charging him as well as he’s charging me!” She would later be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and went into Matteawan State Hospital without standing trial. It has not been made public information whether or not she is still alive. Unlike later assassin James Earl Ray, to date there has not been an effort to connect her actions to any sort of government conspiracy.

The letter opener lodged in Martin Luther King Jr. almost killed him instantly. An analysis of the wound, as King wrote in his autobiography, found that if he had so much as sneezed, it could have cut his aorta. As it was, it took two hours of intense surgery to remove it. Press at the time and a later documentary called When Harlem Saved a King made the point that both white and black surgeons worked to save his life. It’s an understandable point to make since a black woman attempting to kill someone seeking civil rights for blacks might be used by racist propaganda to cast African Americans in a negative light. King, true to form, said of the incident while he was still in the hospital room “I’m not angry with her. I think she needs help.”

Show Me The Proof

Curry, Izola Ware (1916– )
NBC: The Day Martin Luther King Jr. Was Stabbed in Harlem
Washington Times: Surgeon who helped save Martin Luther King Jr. from stabbing dies at 95

  • Check

    Seems symbolic that a letter opener was used to open up the man that later would deliver such an oration the likes the world will never forget.

    • OC

      Let’s not forget Letters From a Birmingham Jail.

  • lbatfish

    “J. Edgar Hoover promised that it includes audio of him having sex.”

    When I first read this, I though that what J.Edgar was offering was a recording of himself and Clyde playing “Rump Ranger.”.

  • Joseph

    I don’t think “society” really targets Martin Luther King Jr. with the intent to blemish his image. Anyone famous is scrutinized pretty heavily (especially today). How many people have heard stories about the Kennedy family that would blemish their images? Most people like to hear about a good scandal.

  • OC

    Because of the times, and the silence about this woman, I have my doubts that the complete story has been told.

  • OC

    Supposedly the Mafia bribed Hoover with photos of Hoover cross-dressing — and doing various nasties. OK I made the second item up. I think he was loyal to his boyfriend and in fact left his estate to his decades-long roommate. Maybe he was asexual. So all this homophobia is not necessary any more. It helps create these monsters with hidden lives who are obsessed with everyone else’s sex lives. We know that some people are Gay and some people are Straight.

  • neha

    I like his speech “I have a dream”, That is fantastic. He changed lifestyle of Americans.