The Three Mothers: A Book Review

In The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, author Anna Malaika Tubbs highlights the oft-overlooked incredible mothers of three of history’s most important men.

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

As Tubbs describes in this book, Black women have historically not only gone unrecognized but have been mistreated as well, and thus there remains little information documented about the lives of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. Investigating these women at length and compiling her findings, Tubbs created this work of non-fiction to pay long-overdue homage to the women who empowered such visionary and well-educated sons to change the world with their ideas, words, and actions.

In addition to this book’s primary focus of describing the conditions of Alberta, Louise, and Berdis’s lives, The Three Mothers also offers commentary on Black motherhood and the social context of Black womanhood in the U.S. throughout the 1900’s. Tying in historic examples of racial violence, sexual violence, and systemic discrimination, Tubbs conveys just how monumentally brave, intelligent, and loving these women were in light of all they faced, and how despite all opposition, they loved themselves and their families, always fighting for better opportunities.

The Three Mothers is a very well-researched book that pays great respect and recognition to Alberta, Louise, and Berdis. Herself a Black mother, Tubbs bookends this piece with her personal investment in this topic and writes that while our society still shortchanges Black women and their families, Black women have historically and continue to have an incredible impact on this nation. In the final chapter, she writes: “[These three mothers] teach us that we possess inherent worth, and we must recognize that worth in each other” (p. 221). Seamlessly braiding the lives of Alberta, Louise, and Berdis together while still appreciating each for her unique individuality, The Three Mothers will greatly move readers.

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