On April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the Civil Rights Movement, and human decency, was dealt a savage blow. On this day, the great Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered by James Earl Ray, a man who had escaped from Missouri State Penitentiary the previous year. Ray was a rabid racist and was drawn to the segregationist platform of George Wallace’s Presidential Campaign. He initially pled guilty to the murder of King, but Ray later withdrew his plea with a view to getting a trial.
However, he failed and died in prison in 1998. To this day, King’s family believes there is more to the murder than meets the eye. The family, along with other individuals, think the reverend’s death was as a result of a plot involving the United States Government. In this article, I will look at ten facts and theories surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King. Was it an open and shut murder case, or, as is allegedly the case involving the deaths of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, a detailed conspiracy?
1 – King Had Survived a Previous Assassination Attempt in 1958
As tragic as King’s death was, at least he was given the opportunity to make an indelible imprint on American history. He would never have had the chance if Izola Ware Curry had her way almost a decade earlier. On September 20, 1958, the African-American woman stabbed King at a book signing in Harlem because she believed he was a communist that had been spying on her. She used a seven-inch letter opener and was just millimeters from puncturing his aorta. In fact, King would have died had he sneezed.
Ware was born in Georgia in 1916 and eventually moved to New York where she worked as a housekeeper. As she got older, Ware began to experience paranoid delusions, and it became harder to find a job. She traveled to several American cities in search of employment including Lexington, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Miami before eventually ending up back in New York in 1958. At this stage, she moved into a rented room in Harlem with no one to help prevent her descent into madness.
Ware began having delusions about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which she believed was a front for Communist activities. She started to believe that the NAACP was following her and preventing her from finding a job. As King began his rise to prominence, she began focusing on him. On the day of the attempted assassination, she walked into Blumstein’s department store where King was signing copies of Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, which was his first book.
After pushing her way to the front of the line, she asked the writer if he was Martin Luther King. When he confirmed his identity, she stabbed him with a letter opener. King was rushed to Harlem Hospital where the blade was taken out during surgery. When she was caught in the store, Ware exclaimed: “I’ve been after him for six years” and “I’m glad I done it.” She was indicted on October 17 and faced a 25-year prison sentence. However, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and committed to a mental institution near Poughkeepsie.
Ware stayed at the institution for 14 years before being moved between residential care homes for the rest of her life. She died in 2015 and left no immediate family. King later said that he bore no animosity towards Ware and spoke about the attack during his I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech on April 3, 1968. Little did he know that the very next day, a cowardly assassin’s bullet would succeed where Ware narrowly failed almost a decade earlier.