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The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Unabridged — 6 hours, 51 minutes

Anna Malaika Tubbs

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Overview

This program is read by the author.

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.

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.


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.

A Macmillan Audio production from Flatiron Books

"The Three Mothers is a fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history after raising sons who helped shape a movement. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman's life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today. An eye-opening, engrossing read!"¿Brit Bennet, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers

"Anna's 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 Anna's writing, Berdis, Alberta, and Louise's stories sing. Theirs is a history forgotten that begs to be told, and Anna 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 Beginning



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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A New York Times Bestsellers Editors' Choice
NPR Books We Love 2021
Business Insider's "23 Best History Books Written by Women"
One of the Skimm'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"


"This dynamic blend of biography and manifesto centers on Louise Little, Alberta King, and Berdis Baldwin—the mothers of, respectively, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin—women whose legacies, as Tubbs notes, have been overlooked. Using them as a window into the varieties of Black American experience.... Tubbs’s book stands against the women’s erasure, a monument to their historical importance. As Malcolm X put it, 'All our achievements are mom’s.'" The New Yorker's "Briefly Noted" column

"This ambitious book reframes African American history, supplying the female Black experience as a much-needed perspective." The Washington Post

"
Tubbs’s portrait is an intimate narrative that aims to link not only Little, King and Baldwin, but all Black mothers... the intersections she highlights are beautiful." —The New York Times Book Review

"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... 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."Publishers Weekly

"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."—Booklist (starred review)

"Tubbs's 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's 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 Beginning

"The Three Mothers is a fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history after raising sons who helped shape a movement. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today. An eye-opening, engrossing read!"
—Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers

"The Three Mothers tells a captivating story of women traumatized by the nation they and their sons would ultimately help transform.... There’s no doubt that [it] will be at the forefront of that changing conversation about Black womanhood."—Destiny Birdsong, BookPage

"Anna Malaika Tubbs does what Black women do best: hold up the light in darkness, calling us all to do our work. The light Alberta, Louise and Berdis deserve is finally shining on them, not only as mothers, but as women whose lives and examples can stir up the gift in all of us. When we tell the stories of Black women with the sharp truth and clarity Anna has, we can better honor the past and find guidance for the struggles of today. Anna is a powerful storyteller, and we should all be grateful she chose to tell this story.”
—Brittany Packnett Cunningham, co-host of Pod Save the People and co-founder of Campaign Zero

"In excavating the life stories of the mothers who reared three of the most central figures in the struggle for civil rights, Anna Malaika Tubbs provides a profound reflection on the contours of Black freedom in the twentieth century and beyond. The Three Mothers is an essential celebration of Black women, one that illuminates the history of racism and resistance in critical new ways. A timely and important book."
— Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime

"Anna Malaika Tubbs’ magnificent debut The Three Mothers is an intimate explication of motherhood as the shoulders upon which children stand. Yes, it is a biographical sketch of the Black women who erected strong foundations for their would-be famous sons while going largely un-recognized themselves, but it's also a love letter to these three particular Black women; a scholarly rejection of the trope of Black woman as conquered victim; and a literary declaration that Black women know best how to survive in this broken world while actively mending it for everyone."
—Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American

"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.... 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."
Publishers Weekly

"an intimate narrative that aims to link not only Little, King, and Baldwin, but all Black mothers."—
New York Times
Book Review

"This ambitious book reframes African American history, supplying the female Black experience as a much-needed perspective." —The Washington Post

"a great examination of a rarely-told triple story you'll love." —The Miami Times

Library Journal

12/01/2020

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

Kirkus Reviews

2020-11-17
A welcome biography of three noted civil rights icons who were indelibly influenced by their mothers.

In her debut book, sociology doctoral candidate Tubbs, a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar, offers informative, admiring biographical portraits of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, women who shaped the lives and work of their sons Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Although “almost entirely ignored throughout history…ignored in ways that are blatantly obvious when the fame of their sons is considered,” these women, Tubbs asserts, deserve attention because they represent the struggles faced by Black women from the early 1900s through the 1960s—and, attests the author, citing her own experience, even in the present. “I am tired of Black women being hidden,” she writes. “I am tired of us not being recognized, I am tired of being erased. In this book, I have tried my best to change this for three women in history whose spotlight is long overdue, because the erasure of them is an erasure of all of us.” Each woman believed in the importance of education for her children, and each advocated for civil rights: Alberta’s father was head pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and a co-founder of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP; college-educated Alberta married preacher Michael King, and together they inherited leadership of the church. Louise left her native Grenada for Montreal, where she joined her uncle as a Garveyite and married a fellow activist. Berdis, single when she gave birth to James, had joined the Great Migration, first living with relatives in Philadelphia and then moving to Harlem during the Renaissance, where she married James’ stepfather. Contextualizing the women in their tumultuous times, Tubbs examines racism, police brutality, and life under Jim Crow to establish “the direct connection” between the mothers and their sons’ “heroic work.” The men, writes the author, “carried their mothers with them in everything they did.”

A refreshing, well-researched contribution to Black women’s history.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940177047355
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: 02/02/2021
Edition description: Unabridged

Customer Reviews