In one of his greatest speeches, Â “I’ve been to the mountaintop”, Dr. King narrates an ugly incident which occurred to him as he signed autographs in New York city at the height of civil rights agitation. Here is part of the speech:
You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing theÂ first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing
books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heardÂ from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down
writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beatingÂ on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented
I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark SaturdayÂ afternoon. And 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.Â And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s
the end of you.Â
It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I hadÂ merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, theyÂ allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, andÂ the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the
They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, andÂ from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few,
but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from theÂ President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams
I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, butÂ I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that
came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the WhiteÂ Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It
Dear Dr. King,
I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”Â And she said,Â While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. IÂ read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I readÂ that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing
you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.Â And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happyÂ that I didn’t sneeze.
Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have beenÂ around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-inÂ at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they wereÂ really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking theÂ whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dugÂ deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence andÂ the Constitution.Â
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when weÂ decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, whenÂ Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And
whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are goingÂ somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.
If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963,Â when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused theÂ conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, inÂ August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.Â If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to seeÂ the great Movement there.Â If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a communityÂ rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.Â I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.Â And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It reallyÂ doesn’t matter what happens now.