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When Harlem Nearly Killed King: The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Paperback – January 6, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (January 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583226141
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583226148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,489,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

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
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Descended from generations of African-American surgeons—including his great-uncle, who was the first Negro surgeon in south Georgia and who built the largest private hospital for blacks in the state—HUGH PEARSON’s distinctive voice weaves autobiography and investigative journalism to offer a unique window of understanding into the nature of the American experience. He was the author of Under the Knife: How a Wealthy Negro Surgeon Wielded Power in the Jim Crow South (2000), which The New York Times called "a moving passionate story," of "a poignancy transcending issues of race." 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 was also a former columnist for the Village Voice. He died in 2005.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bonita L. Davis on August 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The stabbing of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958 appears to be a small footnote in Civil Rights history. When closely examined the incident opens a can of worms that had many serious implications for all those involved. What was important about this failed attempt on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life? Hugh Pearson takes us back on that ill fated journey in Harlem where he unravels the intrigue surrounding King's assault.
By 1958 King was becoming the heir apparant of Civil Rights eclipsing old timers such as Walter White, A. Philip Randolph and other notables of the movement. His youth, popularity, eloquence and successful leadership in the Montgomery Bus Boycott had the world's eye on him. Two prominent white politicians who needed black votes for governor also had their eye on him as a support for their campaigns. New York's Black leadership also was scruitinizing King who appeared to be a potential threat to their power.
Politics, jealousy and the medical ineptness of a senior doctor almost got King killed. The action of one deranged woman culminated in a chain reaction whose outcome was unknown. King was stabbed and all of the world was looking at New York, the politicians and the medical establishment as they reacted to the incident.
Pearson probes through the intimate details of all the key players. He shows us the petty politics of the black leadership and unravels the lies of a doctor who claimed he "saved" King. We look at a venue of actors on stage trying to become the star and we wonder how in the world King survived? This incident was not a mere footnote in history but shows how the political and social mechanism of the time made people react to an incident that may have caused further problems and set backs to the movement. Join with the author as he probes the darkside of this incident and provides us with the fresh light of truth.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jon Walk on May 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book captured my eye because of all that has been written about and is known about the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this Harlem stabbing in 1958 had seemed to slid under the microscope it seems.
However, the real key to the book was the author's ability to use the events leading up to the 1958 book signing as well as all of the individuals involved from NAACP party leadership to the surgical team to very insightfully explain what was happening in the civil rights movement at the time and the attitudes and ideals of those in the midst of it.
It is one that I thoroughly enjoyed and would probably sit down and read again at another time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This incident is little-known among the general public -- perhaps because the would-be assassin was a mentally unstable black woman? Unfortunately, Pearson's writing style is choppy and meandering; the book needed more editing before publication. I also wish he had given more background on Izola Curry, the woman wielding the penknife. What became of her after her confinement to a state psychiatric facility? A historical writer should try to answer the questions readers are likely to ask as best as possible.
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By Suzannah on October 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I chose this book because of its interesting and long overlooked, school-avoided topic. I was delighted by the wonderful writing skills of Mr. Pearson who thoroughly researched the topic and all the people involved. Should be required reading in middle schools and high schools. Being a psychiatrist I was a little disappointed that the book didn't flesh out the assailant's side of the story and what became of her when all was said and done with the political figures involved.
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