Join us in the Spy Museum Store for a special book signing event for The Kneeling Man: My Fathers Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. with author Leta McCollough Seletzky.
Leta McCollough Seletzky is a National Endowment for the Arts 2022 Creative Writing Fellow. A litigator turned essayist and memoirist, her work appears in The Atlantic; The New York Times; TheGrio; O, The Oprah Magazine; The Washington Post; and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Northwestern University and a JD from the George Washington University Law School. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Walnut Creek, California.
The Kneeling Man: My Fathers Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. is the intimate and heartbreaking story of a Black undercover police officer who famously kneeled by the assassinated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr—and a daughter’s quest for the truth about her father.
In the famous photograph of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony of Memphis’s Lorraine Motel, one man kneeled down beside King, trying to staunch the blood from his fatal head wound with a borrowed towel.
This kneeling man was a member of the Invaders, an activist group that was in talks with King in the days leading up to the murder. But he also had another identity: an undercover Memphis police officer reporting on the activities of this group, which was thought to be possibly dangerous and potentially violent. This kneeling man is Leta McCollough Seletzky’s father.
Marrell McCollough was a Black man working secretly with the white power structure, a spy. This was so far from her understanding of what it meant to be Black in America, of everything she eventually devoted her life and career to, that she set out to learn what she could about his life, his actions and motivations. But with that decision came risk. What would she uncover about her father, who went on to a career at the CIA, and did she want to bear the weight of knowing?