Ten years before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was almost taken by a woman named Izola Ware Curry. Curry was a 42-year-old mentally ill woman who stabbed Dr. King on September 20, 1958. The disturbed woman used a letter opener to brutally wound Dr. King during his New York book signing for “Stride Toward Freedom.”

Izola Ware Curry was a native of Adrian, Ga., born in 1916. She moved to New York at age 20 and worked as a housekeeper. It was soon after moving to New York that she began experiencing delusions about the NAACP and Dr. King.

Curry was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and believed that Dr. King, the NAACP and civil rights activists were mixed up with Communists and torturing her. When she attended the book signing in New York, she told Dr. King “I’ve been looking for you for five years” then stabbed him in the left chest area. The doctors of Harlem Hospital later told the reverend that if he had sneezed, the instrument would have punctured his aorta and he would have bled to death.

Immediately after the incident, Curry was arrested. She was found to be carrying a handgun. Curry was charged with felonious assault and possession of firearms. She was, of course, found incompetent to stand trial and was transferred from Bellevue Hospital where she had been in observation to a permanent home at the Matteawan State Hospital for the criminally insane.

Ten days after the incident. Dr. King, who was still hospitalized, publicly stated that he held no resentment toward Curry and that he had hoped she would receive the help she needed.

Read a copy of Curry’s police interrogation soon after her arrest here.

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4 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Izola Ware Curry, Stabber of MLK

  1. Thank you for giving us the reason WHY she stabbed MLK! I would get the simple answer “she was crazy.” But no REASON that was in her head why she did it! Thank you for solving the mystery for me!

  2. Pingback: 10 Lesser Known Facts About Martin Luther King Jr | YouViewed/Editorial

  3. blktraveller on said:

    The poor woman was schizophrenic. I don’t see the need to make a movie about a sick woman’s attempt on a life. It could have been Dr. King or anyone else. Plus, please remember that Dr. King survived her attack but was literally killed by a white man who was not mentally ill, just racist, and Dr. King’s mother was killed by a Black man.

    And I agree with MsVeenie. The enemies of Dr. King probably knew this woman was off, and influenced her to do their bidding, in the same way that the Black male killer of Malcolm X was probably brainwashed into killing Malcolm X. This woman deserves no blame. The times were terrible and many factors came into play to make Black people go against other Black people of influence.

  4. msveenie on said:

    I always thought that the attack by Ms Curry was a staged event by Dr King’s racist enemies. She was indoctrinated to kill him. It’s just fortunate that the assassination attempt didn’t work, that time.

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