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A Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2013

Ten years before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a man with a gun, a woman tried to stab him to death in Harlem, and nearly succeeded. The knife came so close to his heart that Rev. King recalls that “if I had sneezed, I would have died.” In his final, and most apocalyptic sermon, delivered on the eve of his assassination, Dr. King recalls a letter written by a young girl, a student from White Plains High School. Of all the letters he had received during his recovery, this is the only one he remembers. She wrote simply “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School. While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

I’ve long wondered who the student was. Does anyone know?

Here’s a link to the original sermon.

Happy birthday Dr. King

[update April 2018: a possible (probable?) answer: ]


10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2013 6:04 pm

    I’m wondering if you ever found out who the author of the original letter was/is?
    Thanks much,

    • December 20, 2013 6:20 pm

      I never have, despite putting out multiple inquiries. I live in hope.

  2. John Davis permalink
    May 2, 2016 2:47 am

    I am wondering is it the White Plains High School in New York?

    • May 7, 2016 11:01 pm

      I do not know. Scholars of King could better say. Where are you writing from, John?

  3. Terry permalink
    June 18, 2016 2:21 pm

    I wondering the same thing. Do u know who that little girl was?

  4. T K Spangler permalink
    August 6, 2016 9:59 pm

    In 1958 (actually past MLK’s death) 9th grade at White Plains, NY would have been in a Jr High so it is unlikely that the girl would have said she was in 9th grade at White Plains High School if she was from that White Plains. On the other hand, Dr. King could have misremembered the grade level I suppose.

  5. T K Spangler permalink
    August 6, 2016 10:02 pm

    I just realized that if this letter were written in 1958 as opposed to later in the 60’s it is possible that the girl went to the old WPHS and 9th might have been included. Sorry. I would be interested if you find out who wrote it.


  1. Heritage Facts Bundle #3 | revgeary

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