This Day in Black History: Sept. 20, 1958

Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed in the chest by a woman in a Harlem bookstore.  

Posted: 09/19/2012 11:59 AM EDT
Martin Luther King Jr.

On Sept. 20, 1958, legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was seriously injured after a woman stabbed him with a letter opener during a book signing in Harlem.

King was in the store signing copies of his newly released book, Stride Toward Freedom, when Izola Curry, a 42-year-old, mentally disturbed, African-American woman lunged at him with the letter opener, lodging its tip deep in King’s chest just inches away from his aorta.

After the incident, King was rushed to Harlem Hospital where he underwent nearly 2 ½ hours of surgery. The operating doctors told King that the letter opener was placed so precariously that if he had sneezed, the blade would have fatally punctured his aorta.   

When asked about whether he was angry about the attack, King reportedly said, "I think she needs help. I'm not angry at her."

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(Photo: Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images)

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