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Photo shows Martin Luther King Jr. after a 1958 stabbing

January 21, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows Martin Luther King Jr. alive in a hospital bed after he was shot in 1968. He died in the hospital after he was suffocated with a pillow. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo shows King after he was stabbed in 1958. He survived the attack.

THE FACTS: Social media users began sharing false posts with the photo of King ahead of the holiday honoring the civil rights leader on Monday.

The photo being shared online with false captions was taken by The Associated Press. According to caption information, it shows King recovering from surgery at New York Harlem Hospital after surgeons removed a letter opener from his chest after he was stabbed by a mentally disturbed woman during a book signing in Harlem. 


The photo was taken 10 years before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King, 39, was hit in the neck by a bullet. He died less than an hour later in St. Joseph’s Hospital. 

The false claim with the photo was shared thousands of times on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Conspiracies around King’s death have circulated online for years. 

The Shelby County medical examiner at the time found that King died of a single gunshot wound to the chin and neck with a total transaction of the lower cervical and upper thoracic spinal cord and other structures of the neck,” according to information in the National Archives. Due to questions surrounding King’s death, a panel of three forensic pathologists reviewed the medical evidence of his death and found the autopsy report was “generally accurate.”

On Monday, events took place around the U.S. to honor King’s legacy as the father of nonviolence in the American civil rights movement.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: