Izola Ware Curry (born 1916) is an African-American woman who attempted to assassinate civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. She stabbed King with a letter opener at a New York City book signing on September 20, 1958. King was eventually assassinated April 4, 1968 in an unrelated incident.
Curry was born in Adrian, Georgia and moved to New York at the age of 20 where she found work as a housekeeper. Shortly after moving she developed delusions about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
When Strive Toward Freedom was published, King went on a tour to promote it. During a book signing at a department store in New York City, a well-dressed woman approached and asked him if he was Martin Luther King, Jr. When King replied in the affirmative, she said, "I've been looking for you for five years," then stabbed him in the chest with a steel letter opener.
King was immediately taken by ambulance to Harlem Hospital, where surgeons spent three hours removing the blade from its precarious position. "Days later," King wrote in his posthumously published autobiography, "when I was well enough to talk with Dr. Aubrey Maynard, the chief of the surgeons who performed the delicate, dangerous operation, I learned the reason for the long delay that preceded surgery. He told me that the razor tip of the instrument had been touching my aorta and that my whole chest had to be opened to extract it. 'If you had sneezed during all those hours of waiting,' Dr. Maynard said, 'your aorta would have been punctured and you would have drowned in your own blood.'"
While still in the hospital, King said in a September 30 press release in which he reaffirmed his belief in "the redemptive power of nonviolence" and issued a hopeful statement about his attacker, "I felt no ill will toward Mrs. Izola Currey [sic] and know that thoughtful people will do all in their power to see that she gets the help she apparently needs if she is to become a free and constructive member of society."
On October 17, after hearing King's testimony, a grand jury indicted Curry for attempted murder. As a result of her indictment and subsequent hearings, she was adjudicated incompetent to stand trial and was committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the criminally insane.
- Curry, Izola Ware (1916- ), via the Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute.
- Hugh Pearson. When Harlem Nearly Killed King: The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. pg.49. "1958.. forty-two-year-old Negro woman named Izola Curry.."
- "King's Biography". Warner Books. 2001. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- "press release". The Smoking Gun. 1958-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- "The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., digitized volume 4". University of California Press. 2000. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- Commitment Order
- "When Harlem Nearly Killed King: The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Amazon page for the book on the incident