April 19, 2023 - 7:00pm

Photo of author and cover and time/date of event

Please join us on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 at 7:00 PM for a discussion of THE KNEELING MAN: MY FATHER'S LIFE AS A BLACK SPY WHO WITNESSED THE ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. with author Leta McCollough Seletzky in conversation with KQED's Brian Watt.

You can order a copy of THE KNEELING MAN at

This event will be in person at Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Dr., Oakland, CA 94611.


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?

About the Author

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.

Praise For…

Ms., A Most Anticipated Title of the Year

"A well-documented and researched narrative of McCollough’s life, from impoverished sharecropping child to an eventual career in the CIA . . . It paints a vivid and gripping picture of Black life at that time, rife with racism, injustice, and moral ambiguity . . . This book is perfect for anyone seeking to understand the historical period and what it means to be Black in the United States." —Library Journal

"Seletzky debuts with an intriguing study of her father, Marrell 'Mac' McCollough, a police officer and CIA agent who was seen kneeling over Martin Luther King’s body in a famous photograph taken just after the civil rights leader was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968 . . . The result is a nuanced and insightful look at the complex spaces African Americans have navigated in the pursuit of racial justice." —Publishers Weekly

About Brian Watt

Brian Watt is KQED's morning radio news anchor. He joined the KQED News team in April of 2016. Prior to that, he worked as a Reporter for KPCC in Los Angeles and a producer at Marketplace. During eight years at KPCC, Brian covered business and economics, and his work won several awards. In 2008, he won the Los Angeles Press Club’s first-place award for Business and Financial Reporting, Broadcast. He won two Golden Mike awards from the Radio and TV News Association of Southern California. His work with KQED has won Excellence in Journalism Awards from the San Francisco Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian holds degrees in theater from Yale University and the Sorbonne, and has worked as an actor in France, Italy, Brazil, Hungary and . . . Hollywood. He appeared in a few television shows, including The West Wing, Judging Amy and The District.



Montclair Presbyterian Church
5701 Thornhill Drive
Oakland, CA 94611
United States