In the famous photograph of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one man kneeled down beside King, trying to staunch the blood. 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 dangerous. This kneeling man is Leta McCollough Seletzky's father.
The publisher promotes this account with a blurb calling it a 'searing portrait of a man divided between his country and his identity,' but that description is not entirely apt. It’s difficult to discern how deeply Ms. Seletzky and her father have discussed his experiences ... The Kneeling Man, despite its title, is her story more than his. Yet this untidy, honest, fascinating account compels the reader to reflect on profound questions of loyalty and race. Ms. Seletzky, a former litigator, offers no simple answers ... It seems safe to say Mr. McCollough is not inclined to deep reflection. As a result, the book’s best passages derive from his daughter’s earnest reporting ... All of us want to see our parents as heroes. It is to Ms. Seletzky’s great credit that she explores the depths of her father’s story with love, hope and critical realism. I came away from The Kneeling Man feeling that, if Mac McCollough doesn’t bear the burden of his role, his daughter is bravely carrying it for him.
Seletzky’s detailed yet fluid prose shapes her father’s story into a compelling narrative arc... while holding space for her to grapple with Mac’s history as a Black man spying on Black Power activists for the police. While Seletzky keeps the focus on her father’s story, his experiences and observations make intriguing contributions to the MLK assassination canon.
Seletzky’s approach is nuanced, weaving her father's story and its many loose threads into her own ... Students of 1960s anti-war movements and civil rights history will find useful information in this revealing footnote.