Dr. King: "...if I had sneezed, I would have died."
January 18, 2010 2:53 PM   Subscribe

MLK Jr: The First Attempt : Nearly 10 years before he was assassinated, as Dr. King signed copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom, Izola Ware Curry, a part-time maid from Georgia, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener, nearly puncturing his aorta. Though she was eventually indicted for attempted murder, Ms. Curry was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the criminally insane. Characteristically, Dr. King forgave her and requested that she be rehabilitated as a productive member of society.

There is also a book covering this incident by Hugh Pearson that gives additional information on Ms. Curry's back story and anti-communist delusions.

Matteawan State Hospital as it is now.
posted by Alison (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School." She said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze." text, audio pt. 1, audio pt. 2
One of the most moving moments of his last speech. Thank you, Dr. King.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:48 PM on January 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

My God, he was such a wonderful person. Christianity in its ideal form. Take notes, Pat Robertson.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2010

What I found interesting was how this sprang from an old 'civil rights = COMMUNISM' trope, something much, much bigger than Ms. Curry. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI monitored King for five years trying to figure out if he had communist connections. Even when they found no evidence of communist infiltration they still used incidental evidence of impropriety to try to blackmail him into stepping down.

There are some echoes of that kind of thinking around today and it's doing no one any good.
posted by Alison at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2010

It's doing the wingnuts good.
posted by notreally at 7:05 PM on January 18, 2010

My grandfather was a prison guard at Matteawan. My grandmother and most of her sisters worked in the laundry at the prison. I believe they were all working there at this time. Too bad they are all gone, would have been nice to ask them about this.
posted by spicynuts at 7:26 PM on January 18, 2010

From the links, it appears that Izola Curry is still alive, or at least her death hasn't been recorded. I wonder what happened to her.
posted by electroboy at 8:26 AM on January 19, 2010

Nice post. I heard the speech by Dr. King on the radio the other day and it was quite moving.
posted by caddis at 11:04 AM on January 20, 2010

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