The woman who stabbed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than a half-century ago in a failed assassination attempt has died in New York City.
Izola Ware Curry, 98, died at Hillside Manor nursing home in Queens on March 7, the Smoking Gun reported.
Curry, then 42, plunged a letter opener into the civil rights leaders chest during a 1958 Harlem book signing, missing MLK’s heart by mere centimeters. Had he been successfully assassinated in 1958 instead of 1968, the course of American history would have been radically different.
After she stabbed MLK and was arrested, Curry moved around New York frequently and lived in complete anonymity for the last 56 years of her life. She first was admitted to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and then, upon her release from state custody, a series of group homes in Queens.
Several years ago, Curry moved into the Hillside Manor nursing home in Jamaica where she died at the home. She had lived in a small room that looked out onto a rear parking lot, the Smoking Gun reports.
Curry would have turned 99 in June.
Unfortunately for King, the stabbing in 1958 at age 29 was a harbinger of things to come. He would be assassinated exactly a decade later in Memphis, Tenn., during a campaign to support sanitation workers.
Eerily, during a speech the day before he died, King referred to his stabbing, noting just how close he came to dying that Saturday afternoon in Blumstein’s department store. During his “Promised Land” speech, delivered the day before he died, King referred to Curry:
“You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up,” King recalled. “Before I knew it, I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. That blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drowned in your own blood, that’s the end of you. It came out in The New York Times the next morning that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died.”
King then closed the final address of his life by saying that had he sneezed after being stabbed by Curry, he would have missed a decade’s worth of milestone events — passage of the Civil Rights Ac of 1964, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Selma marches, the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Freedom Riders protests, The March on Washington and the unassailable “I Have a Dream” Speech.
Reflecting on what might not ever have been, King simply said, “I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”
The rest of black America share his sentiments.