Museum launches Book & Author Series with an MLK spy’s daughter

Author’s book reveals father’s infiltration into the Civil Rights Movement and the MLK assassination

Memphis, TN, Aug. 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum brings journalist and litigator Leta McCullough Seletzky, to speak on her new book, The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. to open this season’s Book and Author Series on Thursday, August 17.  The much-anticipated April release reveals a new perspective on the FBI Counterintelligence Program’s (COINTELPRO) stronghold on civil rights activists and how it influenced local law enforcement and Black life in cities like Memphis in the 1960s.

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 as 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, 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?

An autographed copy of The Kneeling Man is available in the museum’s online store. The hybrid Book & Author Series event begins at 6:00 pm Central and is free and open for registration.  For more information, visit

The book talk series continues on September 20 with The 5th Little Girl by Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.  On October 4, the museum brings A Few Days of Trouble by co-authors Christopher Benson and Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., the cousin of Emmett Till. 

The museum’s Book & Author Series began in 2015 and has included appearances by historians and nonfiction authors including Ibram X. Kendi, Keisha Blain, Kellie Carter, William Pepper, and Candacy Taylor.

About the National Civil Rights Museum
The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors worldwide have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honor and preserve the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  It chronicles the American civil rights movement and tells the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.


Leta McCollough Seletzky