Cover image for When Harlem nearly killed King : the 1958 stabbing of Martin Luther King, Jr.
When Harlem nearly killed King : the 1958 stabbing of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pearson, Hugh.
Personal Author:
Seven stories press first edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Seven Stories Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
138 pages ; 22 cm
Where do we go from here? -- A tight race -- Putting the right spin on a huge embarrassment -- Taking the kid-glove approach -- Why isn't King signing books at my bookstore? -- Not quite in touch with reality -- Stride toward critical acclaim -- Crisis -- Why did they take King to Harlem Hospital? -- Waiting for Little Napoleon -- Roots -- Saving King -- Convalescence -- Subsequent fates.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.97.K5 P42 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1958 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrating his first major triumph: the US Supreme Court decision desegregating buses in Montgomery, Alabama. With his book about to be released, King travelled to New York for a promotional tour. Then, in a little known incident, a mentally unstable black woman stabbed the civil rights leader, and a black surgeon saved his life in Harlem Hospital. Now, the acclaimed author of The Shadow of the Panther captures this historical moment, arguing that change occurs not in one grand gesture, but in many small ways.

Author Notes

Hugh Pearson, a former editorial page writer at The Wall Street Journal and a former columnist for the Village Voice, is the author, most recently, of Under the Knife: How a Wealthy Negro Surgeon Wielded Power in the Jim Crow South (2000). His previous book was The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America, a New York Times Notable Book of 1994. Pearson serves on the board of directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

On Saturday, September 20, 1958, at a book promotion and rally in New York City's Harlem, a ranting and apparently disoriented 42-year-old black woman named Izola Curry plunged the six- to eight-inch blade of a Japanese penknife into the chest of a rising leader of the Civil Rights Movement the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Veteran journalist Pearson ably situates the stabbing amid the web of personalities vying for competitive, and particularly political, advantage at every turn inside and outside the movement. He examines the stabbing in light of New York's 1958 gubernatorial race between the eventual winner, Republican Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Democratic stalwart W. Averell Harriman. Pearson also uses the stabbing to explain the movement's tenuous fortunes as it confronted challenges like the claim that the stabbing was a Communist-inspired plot. This fact-filled foray into a harrowing day in King's life and the political environment of Harlem and of the movement makes for interesting reading. For collections on the Civil Rights Movement, King, or local history. Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Where do we go from here?p. 1
2 A tight racep. 15
3 Putting the right spin on a huge embarrassmentp. 25
4 Taking the kid glove approachp. 31
5 Why isn't king signing books at my bookstore?p. 39
6 Not quite in touch with realityp. 47
7 Stride toward critical acclaimp. 51
8 Crisisp. 65
9 Why did they take king to harlem hospital?p. 69
10 Waiting for little napoleonp. 75
11 Rootsp. 83
12 Saving kingp. 105
13 Convalescencep. 113
14 Subsequent fatesp. 119
Epiloguep. 122
Notesp. 133