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This Day in Georgia History

September 20, 1958

MLK Stabbed by Deranged Woman

While in New York City to promote his new book, Strive Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed in the chest by a black woman, Mrs. Isola Ware Curry. Born in Adrian, Georgia, in 1918, Mrs. Curry at age 20 had moved to New York, where she worked as a housekeeper. Why she would attempt to assassinate the civil rights leader is unknown, but at a book signing, she approached King and stabbed him with an eight-inch letter opener, telling the stunned crowd, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it.” King was taken to Harlem Hospital, where his chest wound proved life-threatening, as the tip of the blade almost punctured his aorta. Ten days after the attack, King held a press conference at the hospital at which he forgave his attacker and said she should not be punished because “she didn’t know what she was doing.” After the stabbing, Mrs. Curry was taken to Bellevue Hospital for mental observation. Later, though indicted for attempted murder, a judge ruled her incompetent to stand trial and instead committed her to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in New York.