In her groundbreaking and essential debut Three Mothers, 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, all born into the beginning of the 20th century and its deadly landscape of racial prejudice. Jim Crow. Exploitation. Unpoliced violence. Police violence.
It was a society that would deny their sons’ humanity from the beginning as it had denied theirs, but Berdis, Alberta, and Louise raised their children to hope and work towards better. Louise had fought her own battles for change and taught her children about their activist roots. Berdis encouraged James to express himself in writing. Alberta based her lessons in faith and social justice, raising Martin Luther to believe in what was right, and to dream. In doing all of this, building their sons towards resilience, resistance and greatness, they would become mothers not just to three world-changing men but to the civil rights movement itself.
These women, in their common goals and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.