The three mothers How the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin shaped a nation

Anna Malaika Tubbs

Book - 2021

"In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who rai...sed them, who were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. Berdis, Alberta, and Louise passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning--from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced. These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America's racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families' safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers. These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biography
Biographies
Published
New York, NY : Flatiron Books 2021.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
261 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [229]-251) and index.
ISBN
9781250756121
125075612X
Main Author
Anna Malaika Tubbs (author)
  • Introduction
  • Part I: The circumstances of our birth
  • Part II: The denial of our existence
  • Part III: Our men and marriages
  • Part IV: The birth of our children
  • Part V: Our trials, tribulations, and tragedies
  • Part VI: Loving our sons
  • Part VII: Losing our sons
  • Part VIII: The circumstances of our death
  • Conclusion: Our lives will not be erased.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin were all born within five years of each other in the 1920s. While their lives have been extensively documented, this intriguing triple biography of their mothers—Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin—covers new territory and offers insights into Black women's lives during the early twentieth century. These three women's backgrounds could not have been more different. Alberta was the cherished only child of a respected Atlanta minister, Louise was raised by her grandparents in Grenada, and Bertis grew up with her widowed father, a fisherman from Chesapeake Bay. All three would live to see their sons become famous, and all three would see their sons die way too soon. Tubbs does a masterful job of interweaving the facts of these women's lives into the evolving social and political histories of civil rights, including accounts of the horrific injustices suffered by women of color. This book arose out of Tubbs' doctoral dissertation on Black motherhood. Her passion to give voices to overlooked people of color is evident, and her storytelling is compelling. This important piece of scholarship and profoundly personal portrayal of African American women deserves a wide audience.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020 Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Berdis Baldwin encouraged James's writing, Alberta King pushed Martin toward higher education, and Louise Little asked her children to read to her from the dictionary. And look at the results. From Gates Scholar and Cambridge PhD candidate in sociology married to the mayor of Stockton, CA. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Sociologist Tubbs begins this biography of three remarkable women by stating her intention to honor the subjects as accomplished and inspiring people in their own right, not only as mothers of famous men, and follows through beautifully on this promise. The stories of Berdis Baldwin (1901–99), Alberta King (1904–74), and Louise Little (1897–1991) are woven together, from their family histories and early childhoods to adolescent years, marriage, motherhood, and the losses of their sons. This makes clear the similarities and patterns among the women's lives and how the events and challenges of their times shaped their paths. The author writes with great respect and provides just the right amount of information to leave readers with an understanding of their complicated lives, shaped by the devastating racism of early 20th-century America but full of love and independence. The narrative makes clear that each woman made possible the accomplishments of her famous child with her own resilience, determination, and activism. VERDICT This compassionate book skillfully introduces three people who have had an important impact on the world but whose lives receive little attention. Readers will complete the book feeling their time was well spent.—Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Educator Tubbs debuts with an engrossing triple biography of Alberta King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr.; Louise Little, mother of Malcom X; and Berdis Baldwin, mother of James Baldwin. Though these women have been "almost entirely ignored throughout history," Tubbs writes, their teachings and approaches to motherhood "were translated directly into their sons' writing, speeches and protests." All three overcame prejudice and social restrictions on an almost daily basis and "strove to equip their children not only to face the world but to change it," Tubbs writes. Alberta King (neé Williams) earned a college degree and became a leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father, husband, and son all served as pastors. Louise Little (neé Langdon), an immigrant from Grenada, was a leader in the Marcus Garvey movement. Berdis Baldwin (neé Jones) raised her children single-handedly after her husband's death, and pushed them to fight hard for their educational opportunities. Though the world "tried to deny their humanity and their existence," Tubbs writes, Alberta, Louise, and Berdis gave their sons the foundation to achieve greatness. Tubbs skillfully draws parallels between each woman's story, and vividly captures the early years of the civil rights movement. This immersive history gives credit where it's long overdue. (Feb.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A Gates Cambridge Scholar presents a tribute to the mothers of Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr., to share insights into the prejudices they endured, their commitment to education and their anti-racism advocacy. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, who were all born at thebeginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. Berdis, Alberta, and Louise passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning-from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced. These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America's racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families' safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers. These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

New York Times Bestseller“This dynamic blend of biography and manifesto centers on Louise Little, Alberta King, and Berdis Baldwin . . . Tubbs’s book stands against the women’s erasure, a monument to their historical importance.”—The New Yorker"Tubbs' connection to these women is palpable on the page — as both a mother and a scholar of the impact Black motherhood has had on America. Through Tubbs' writing, Berdis, Alberta, and Louise's stories sing. Theirs is a history forgotten that begs to be told, and Tubbs tells it brilliantly."— Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and National Book Award winner Stamped from the BeginningMuch has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes.A New York Times Bestsellers Editors' ChoiceAn Amazon Editor's Pick for FebruaryAmazon's Best Biographies and Memoirs of 2021One of theSkimm's "16 Essential Books to Read This Black History Month"One of Fortune Magazine's "21 Books to Look Forward to in 2021!"One of Badass Women's Bookclub picks for "Badass Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021!" One of Working Mother Magazine's "21 Best Books of 2021 for Working Moms"One of Ms. Magazine's "Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of Us 2021"One of Bustle's "11 Nonfiction Books To Read For Black History Month — All Written By Women"One of SheReads.com's "Most anticipated nonfiction books of 2021"Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning—from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced.These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers.These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.