The Kneeling Man My Father's Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: 2023-04-04
Publisher(s): Counterpoint
List Price: $27.00

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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

Leta McCollough Seletzky grew up knowing her father occupied a unique position in American history as one of a handful of Black men working for the Memphis police department during the Civil Rights era, but there were mysteries about his past that he never shared with her. 

In the famous photograph of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. taken on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel, a man kneeled down beside Dr. King with a towel grabbed off a cleaner’s cart, trying to staunch the blood. The kneeling man is McCollough Seletzky’s father. Marrell McCollough was an undercover officer for the Memphis Police Department, infiltrating a Black militant group, the Invaders, which was in talks with Dr. King in the days leading up to the murder.

Painful unspoken questions about her father germinated in McCollough Seletzky’s mind as an adult. Who exactly was Marrell McCollough of the famous photograph? How could he, a Black man, have spied on Black people on behalf of a mostly white, racist police force? Was there any truth to the conspiracy theories about his involvement in Dr. King’s murder?

The Kneeling Man is the story of a daughter’s journey to understand her complex father.

Author Biography

Leta McCollough Seletzky is a recipient of ​​the National Endowment for the Arts. A litigator-turned-essayist and memoirist, her work appears in The Atlantic; The New York Times; The Grio; O, The Oprah Magazine; The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and now lives in Walnut Creek, California. 

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