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

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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 Loui 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 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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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 Loui 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 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Foster

    I was so excited to get this book. I've always been curious about the mothers of three great men. But where do you start? How do you find the information that you need? I was so eager to dive into this book and I must admit I feel like these three mothers. This book is full of love and compassion for their sons. How they were raised and taught shows the type of love that they received. This book also helps me to understand that no matter what as a mother when are always teaching our children and I was so excited to get this book. I've always been curious about the mothers of three great men. But where do you start? How do you find the information that you need? I was so eager to dive into this book and I must admit I feel like these three mothers. This book is full of love and compassion for their sons. How they were raised and taught shows the type of love that they received. This book also helps me to understand that no matter what as a mother when are always teaching our children and trying to have their lives better than ours. We lose sleep and suffer because of the love that we have for them. This book shows me that not only were these three mothers exceptional mothers but they didn't get the credit that they deserved. We have to prepare our children for the world. And unfortunately, they had to live to see their son's death. This book is beyond amazing and so needed at a time where mothers are hardly given the credit for raising such incredible men. Thank you book browse for giving me the opportunity for this advanced reading book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Farris Blount III

    The Three Mothers is an eye-opening read that encourages us to take seriously not only the ways in which Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin were shaped by their mothers but also how these women resisted assaults on their own personhood as Black women and claimed their dignity when very few would. Drawing from a myriad of sources that indicates her prowess as a researcher and scholar, Malaika Tubbs does a masterful job of weaving together the stories of these women, their work, The Three Mothers is an eye-opening read that encourages us to take seriously not only the ways in which Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin were shaped by their mothers but also how these women resisted assaults on their own personhood as Black women and claimed their dignity when very few would. Drawing from a myriad of sources that indicates her prowess as a researcher and scholar, Malaika Tubbs does a masterful job of weaving together the stories of these women, their work, and their impact on their children to paint an accessible, thought-provoking portrait of the promise and pain of Black motherhood. Furthermore, by detailing these mothers’ lives through the historical context in which they were born, struggled, and strived, Malaika Tubbs skillfully reminds us that it is impossible to tell the story of America, much less the world, without centering the experiences of Black mothers in particular and Black women in general. This profound truth makes The Three Mothers required reading if we are to give an honest account about who we and the men we admire are indebted to, and who is owed our deepest respect, support, and love - Black women.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nerdette Podcast

    Cannot recommend this book highly enough! The detailed examination of each of these three families, paired with heartrending historical and social context, creates a story that's important and utterly gorgeous. Cannot recommend this book highly enough! The detailed examination of each of these three families, paired with heartrending historical and social context, creates a story that's important and utterly gorgeous.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Giles

    “Through the lives of the three mothers - Alberta, Berdis, and Louise - I honor Black motherhood as a whole and celebrate knowledge passed from generation to generation through the bodies and teachings of Black women.” This book does exactly what it sets out to do in the title: it teaches you about the absolute brilliance of the three women who raised leaders of the civil rights movement in America. It also does so much more than that. It writes these women back into history which by extension w “Through the lives of the three mothers - Alberta, Berdis, and Louise - I honor Black motherhood as a whole and celebrate knowledge passed from generation to generation through the bodies and teachings of Black women.” This book does exactly what it sets out to do in the title: it teaches you about the absolute brilliance of the three women who raised leaders of the civil rights movement in America. It also does so much more than that. It writes these women back into history which by extension writes the experiences of many Black women back into the spotlight. It highlights the intersectionality of the prejudice Black women have historically faced. It gives credit to not only these women, but the women who raised them and so on, for the teachings and perseverance that shaped a movement. It also demonstrates the ways in which these structural systems of oppression still affect Black experiences, with a focus on Black women and mothers, today. This is a hard book to read in terms of the anger, sadness, and horror that it includes, but simply ignoring works like this because it is often harrowing is counterproductive to achieving the change we need, particularly if you are a white person who is largely unaffected by political systems and cultural norms that benefit you. We know slavery and the Jim Crow era was awful, but knowing that it was awful and reminding ourselves of the specific events, case studies, lives affected, and statistics is different, and is extremely important. It is clear that these ‘historic’ events have a direct relation to the systems in place today, and therefore need to be remembered and examined in order to keep enacting the change we need. I will never be able to explain or demonstrate the importance of this book better than Anna Malaika Tubbs does herself within the first chapter. Number 1 because I’m not a writer, and Number 2 because I’m white and while I can read about and listen to Black people's and other POC’s experiences, I can never experience it myself. I’m just here to implore all of my followers to please pick up this book and listen to and learn the history recorded here for yourself. This book explored the lives of the three women who birthed well-known sons in the civil rights movements. It detailed their individual histories: where they came from, their family, the lessons and experiences they encountered as children and young adults. It also acknowledges their trials and tribulations growing up in the era of extreme racism whilst demonstrating how these women were so much more than their oppression. They were the ways they overcame this, the values they held dear, the lives they lived prior to becoming mothers as well as the lessons they instilled in their children. The author describes finding the information about these women’s lives to write this book as ‘like finding a needle in a haystack’. Though the three men they raised, as well as their other children, repeatedly refer to their mothers as the source of their knowledge and power, history has erased them from the narrative. They were not given the credit they were deserved while they were alive, and this book is the first (incredibly written and executed) step to giving credit not just to these three women, but to Black mothers everywhere. This book demonstrates how Black mothers have been in the unique position of raising children who have the odds stacked against them from even before birth, and having to teach their children that they are more than the world around them will tell them. “In a Black mother’s teachings lies a world beyond what currently exists.” What is also stressed within this book is how these racist structural systems of oppression still continue to affect Black women today; they are more likely to experience discrimination based on stereotypes, they are more likely to experience domestic violence, and are less likely to get help in systems such as mental health or police protection. Black women are more likely to be imprisoned and given harsher sentences than their white counterparts; not because they commit more/worse crimes but because they are less likely to have the resources to lessen these sentences and less likely to get fair trials. There are countless ways in which they are negatively affected, all rooted in the events covered in this book, which need to be listened to and changed. However, the survival and perseverance of Black motherhood is also celebrated within this book. It is celebrated in the work that Alberta, Berdis, and Louise did for their families and their community. It is celebrated in the way that Black women have survived innumerable obstacles and continue to do so. It is celebrated through the love these women, and many like them, inspired, and the communities of support they built. “It is crucial to understand the layers of oppression Black women face, while remembering that solely studying oppression keeps us from honoring ‘the ways in which we have created and maintained our own intellectual traditions as Black women.’” This book was truly incredible. I couldn't have enjoyed learning about these three women and their accomplishments more, and I have an even deeper appreciation for Alberta, Berdis, and Louise, as well as Black mothers everywhere. I could not recommend picking up this book more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tomes And Textiles

    I loved this look at these three mothers and how they and their experiences influenced their children. More thoughts to come soon, but this was a really beautiful nonfiction.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bitchin' Reads

    Powerful. Enlightening. Thoroughly explored and wonderfully expressed. Worth a read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Anderson

    A stunning account of the women who preceded and inspired a generation of Civil Rights icons. The Three Mothers is a fast read, not due to lack of substance but rather such seamless visual storytelling. Malaika Tubbs beautifully captures nearly a century of American history through the lives of Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little and reveals to us the uniqueness and interconnectedness of their experiences. Grounding their stories in Black Feminist scholarship and theory, Malaika Tubb A stunning account of the women who preceded and inspired a generation of Civil Rights icons. The Three Mothers is a fast read, not due to lack of substance but rather such seamless visual storytelling. Malaika Tubbs beautifully captures nearly a century of American history through the lives of Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little and reveals to us the uniqueness and interconnectedness of their experiences. Grounding their stories in Black Feminist scholarship and theory, Malaika Tubbs connects these three forerunning women to larger tensions and triumphs of the Black Femme experience. She does so in an incredibly accessible way, making the book an excellent read for all ages and audiences. What a poetic and honest examination of America and the state of Black womanhood. Don’t walk, run to get this book. You won’t regret it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alexia

    The Three Mothers is genius, well researched and crafted, and so full of love. I truly commend Tubbs for being able to see through the devastation and pain and create something that honors the lives of these women and gives Black women everywhere hope and inspiration. I'm going to break this review up by some of the sections in the book. The Circumstances of Our Births cw:rape I learned so much about the history of GA in this chapter, and really love how Tubbs grounded us in what was happening The Three Mothers is genius, well researched and crafted, and so full of love. I truly commend Tubbs for being able to see through the devastation and pain and create something that honors the lives of these women and gives Black women everywhere hope and inspiration. I'm going to break this review up by some of the sections in the book. The Circumstances of Our Births cw:rape I learned so much about the history of GA in this chapter, and really love how Tubbs grounded us in what was happening historically and culturally first in order to set the scene for what the three mothers would have to go through and overcome. This section also highlights the rape of Black girls and women. It's hard to read but also sets up Tubbs' later points about Black women having the choice of when to give birth being a revolutionary act. The Denial of Our Existence I never even thought of Black women also working factory jobs during WWI. There really is so much history we (Black women) are excluded from. Hidden figures for real. She also touches on the representation of Black kids in the media, and it really shows why representation is so important, especially when people try to make you doubt your greatness and think of you as inferior. This section reminded me how easy it is to get angry when learning about Black history. It's really unfathomable to me how you could have so much hatred for someone based on the color of their skin and culture. But this section also led to me talking to my mom about our family history and the strength of my great grandmother, so I'm thankful for Tubbs' writing. Our Trials, Tribulations, and Tragedies I wish our people were given access to therapy and medication. Thinking about the pain and traumas that were passed unknowingly on because the root problems couldn't be addressed and were only exacerbated by the treatment of Black people in this country. And Louise's life really upset me the most. The way the state treated her and her family was terrible and yet I know that there must have been other mothers also ripped from their families. Our country is good at separating mothers and their children. Loving Our Sons This section took me almost an hour to get through because I was reading so many articles and watching clips about the events it talked about. That's another thing I loved about this book is that it makes (almost necessitates) you do your own research. I'm also thinking about the strength of these women who had to go on after the assassinations and deaths of their children even if they may have not wanted to. We are all the better for the sacrifices, grief, and pain these women had to experience. The Circumstances of Our Deaths I know that the book is about these three women, but I still appreciate how the book didn't end with the deaths of their sons. We got to see the impact the mothers continued to have on their families and communities. Also I had no idea about how the death of Alberta King happened, and I feel like that should be talked about just as much as her son's. The two situations do not live in a vacuum. Our Lives Will Not Be Erased I wholeheartedly agree with Tubbs that the stories of our existence and perseverance need to be told. I'm going to do a better job about asking for stories from my family. Overall, this book was amazing, and I cannot recommend it enough.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Mullan

    This book was a sociology of race scholars dream. The sociological imagination mixed with the historical contexts/ timelines built an incredible story of three legendary women. This book is about black motherhood - what it means and what it entails. Malcolm X (Louise), James (Jamie) Baldwin (Berdis), and MLK Jr (Alberta) have fascinating histories. I was most fascinated by their ancestral upbringing. All three with very unique stories that the author Tubbs geniously pieces together. If I were bac This book was a sociology of race scholars dream. The sociological imagination mixed with the historical contexts/ timelines built an incredible story of three legendary women. This book is about black motherhood - what it means and what it entails. Malcolm X (Louise), James (Jamie) Baldwin (Berdis), and MLK Jr (Alberta) have fascinating histories. I was most fascinated by their ancestral upbringing. All three with very unique stories that the author Tubbs geniously pieces together. If I were back in college, I have no doubts this text would be in the syllabus for a sociology course. It speaks to race issues of the past and present. The text references works by people I once studied: Margaret Sanger, Angela Davis, etc. It is true that history is often written by the patriarchy. With that in mind, the three women who created three of the most well-known civil rights heroes, were left out of history. I am so inspired by each woman’s story. Their strength, their bravery, and their grace. It took me a while to sit down and really process this book. So much so that I read the first half of the book twice. I only wish I had bought this text as I must return it to the library soon. I only now want to know more about these mothers - but as the author states, their lives are extremely undocumented. I appreciated the authors personal prose throughout the book and her defense on each argument she made. The conclusion mentioned current events in a way that I think all people who believe “all lives matter” (insert eye roll here) could benefit from reading. The lessons/stories the three mothers teach the reader remind us of what is left out of the news and the continuing of civil rights violations and stereotypes of black women. This is the first text I have read since college that I felt I really connected with a nonfiction text. I had heard the author on a podcast promoting this book and I immediately knew I had to read it. I can’t wait to read her next work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    Three Mothers is a difficult book for me to review. The story is of course uplifting and inspirational. These three women were courageous, strong mothers. Their stories are eye-opening. I found myself sad for their suffering, and angry at the world they found themselves living in. It made me feel the devastation that comes from acknowledging all the ways my country hasn't changed. The perspective of the book is unique, thought-provoking and interesting. I do wish it were longer, and that I could Three Mothers is a difficult book for me to review. The story is of course uplifting and inspirational. These three women were courageous, strong mothers. Their stories are eye-opening. I found myself sad for their suffering, and angry at the world they found themselves living in. It made me feel the devastation that comes from acknowledging all the ways my country hasn't changed. The perspective of the book is unique, thought-provoking and interesting. I do wish it were longer, and that I could have spent more time in each of their shoes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Russ Guill

    Content/Topic: 5 Technical: 2 Audiobook Performance: 2 A must-read topic, but the book is severely hampered by its rudimentary writing and sophomoric audiobook narration (which is further undermined by unacceptable T-glottalization). I wanted better, and these three women deserve better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Jimmerson

    Three Mothers touched the heart of this mother. The book makes real the foundation of three American icons allowing us to gain a deeper and more nuanced understand of these men. Uplifting and touching at the same time, this book depicts the strength and courage of these mothers as they fight to raise their families. Their stories reach through history to strike an accord as these themes replay today. The author has applied a fresh perspective to a time in history marked by the struggles of the l Three Mothers touched the heart of this mother. The book makes real the foundation of three American icons allowing us to gain a deeper and more nuanced understand of these men. Uplifting and touching at the same time, this book depicts the strength and courage of these mothers as they fight to raise their families. Their stories reach through history to strike an accord as these themes replay today. The author has applied a fresh perspective to a time in history marked by the struggles of the long civil rights movement. This story of the mothers who gave us some of the most inspirational leaders of our time is a must read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daphne Marts

    Reading this book has been an incredible honor. Anna Malaika Tubbs is a skillful and engaging writer who encourages her reader to look beyond Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin to the lives and experiences of their mothers - those who raised them into the men they became.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Donna Lewis

    Have you ever wondered what upraising someone like Adolf Hitler had that would shape him into the monster he became? What about someone on the opposite end of the spectrum? Like Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X, or the brilliant James Baldwin. Well, Anna Malaika Tubbs decided to find out who were the mothers who shaped the lives of these three remarkable figures, and how influential each mother’s life experiences and teachings were on her son’s views and actions. The book is about Louise Little, Have you ever wondered what upraising someone like Adolf Hitler had that would shape him into the monster he became? What about someone on the opposite end of the spectrum? Like Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X, or the brilliant James Baldwin. Well, Anna Malaika Tubbs decided to find out who were the mothers who shaped the lives of these three remarkable figures, and how influential each mother’s life experiences and teachings were on her son’s views and actions. The book is about Louise Little, mother of Malcolm X; Alberta King, mother of Martin Luther King; and Berdis Baldwin, mother of James Baldwin. It is also about their ability to raise their children in the face of racism. The first of the three mothers was born in the late 1890s, and the last of the three passed in the late 1990s, and each was alive to bury her son. Born in Granada, Louise’s West African ancestors were descendants of slaves, fought against the French an British colonizers. She learned that “sacrificing one’s life in the name of freedom was more admirable than living in captivity.” Her grandfather passed away in 1901 leaving her grandmother to raise six children and a grandchild alone. This influence was the radical feminist energy that shaped her. She was born in 1897, possibly the product of rape, judging by her pale skin tone. Alberta Christine Williams was born in 1903 in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father was the head pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Founded in 1886, this church became a symbol of hope and resistance to oppression in the face of Jim Crow. “Between 1890 and 1917, two to three Black southerners were murdered each week,” and the highest number of rapes and lynching occurred in this period of time because “Violence against all Black people was justified by the law.” Emma Berdis Jones was born on Deal Island, Maryland, in 1903, where “As early as 1796, the federal government issued Seamen’s Protection Certificates which defined these black merchant mariners as ‘citizens’—America’s first black citizens.” Emma, who went by Berdis, her middle name, was shown love and strength by her father and four older siblings after mother died when she was born. The years after WWI saw the Great Migration and the expansion of Black nationalism. All thee of these women learned self-determination from their elders. In 1917 Louise moved to Montreal where “she could channel her anger against white supremacy, where she could use her writing to advance the cause of her people, where she could join others in the fight for Black independence.” Meanwhile, Alberta’s parents were raising her with a strong religious faith, while teaching her to be an activist. She was raised with “examples of resistance in the name of humanity and love.” Berdis joined the Great Migration ending up in New York City. These three women were brilliant students, in spite of “the terror the KKK and Jim Crow inflicted.” In the fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Black people saw little change in their lives. “The families of Berdis, Alberta, and Louise encouraged them to believe in their dreams and future possibilities.” The book goes into great detail of the lynchings, rapes and other atrocities that frequently occurred throughout this period. It also details the involvement of Back women in the fight for women’s suffrage and their contributions to the Harlem Renaissance. In 1924, Berdis gave birth to a son out of wedlock. Her marriage to David Baldwin suffered because he was “constrained by the lack of opportunities and fair treatment for Black men.” David was increasingly violent and later succumbed to mental illness. Berdis became a single mother of nine at the age of forty-one. James did most of the child rearing. Alberta married Michael King in 1926, and when she was barred from teaching, taught her husband and children to read and write. Michael, Jr (later renamed Martin Luther) was born in 1929. Martin and his siblings were “the products of a long line of activists and ministers.” Louise married Earl Little in 1919, and they committed themselves to committed to “spreading Garvey’s message of the African empire and Black self-reliance.” They were under constant threat by the KKK and the Black Legion, moving from city to city. Malcolm was born in Omaha in 1925, shortly after a white mob had surrounded his mother and siblings alone in their home, threatening to kill them. Louise, pregnant with Malcolm, stood up to the mob, which eventually left after only damaging the house. Subsequently they were burned out of a farm in Lansing, Michigan, but remarkably they continued to recover and rebuild their lives. When Earl was pushed under a streetcar, Louise became a single mother of seven. She was denied his insurance money because they said he had committed suicide. She was institutionalized in an insane asylum against her will for 25 years, causing the family to disintegrate. From the moment they were born, David, Michael, and Earl “each faced the challenges of being seen and treated as less than, as unworthy of respect. Learning how the world viewed them threatened even their own view of themselves.” We are able to see the three women were able to advance their lives and the lives of the children while facing constant stresses on the marriages. The Kings had the most economic and familial support. The Littles had the support of the UNIA (United Negro Improvement Assoc., founded by Garvey). The Baldwins had none of support, but relied on Berdis, who had the “incredible ability to forgive, to provide, and to love no matter how impossible things might seem.” The women continually stressed the importance of education, and pushed to instill integrity, fairness, and the value of hard work in their children. The book details James Baldwin’s travels, writing development, and his meeting with Martin Luther King. We also read about Martin’s educational achievements and his ministry. Then there’s Malcom’s sporadic education, brushes with the law, and ten-year prison sentence. The death of Emmett Till and it’s effect on his writing. Also we read about the relationship between his books and what was going on around him. James wanted to cast his mother in his Broadway play, “Blues for Mister Charlie.” “In 1957, Alberta was named “Mother of the Year” by the Atlanta Daily World newspaper.” She also was acknowledged as one of the mother’s of the Civil Rights Movement. Also detailed is Martin’s 1963 speech in Washington DC and his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was later shot to death in Memphis in 1968. Malcom’s converted and then repudiated Islam, and then began “traveling around the world on his mission to better understand global civil rights movements.” He was able to reunite with his mother, when she was released from the asylum, just prior to his shooting death in Harlem in 1965. “Some say that by the 1960s, Malcolm, Martin, and James found themselves more in line with one another than they ever had before.” In 1986 James succumbed to cancer. Berdis, Louise and Alberta each suffered the pain of burying a son. These three Black mothers “allowed their children to thrive even when all odds were stacked against them.” In 1974 Alberta King was shot and killed. Louise Little passed away in 1991 in Michigan. Berdis Baldwin passed away peacefully in Washington DC in 1999. “The fact that each woman lived a very full life despite losing their sons speaks to their resilience and their view of their own worth.” Sorry that I went on so long. The book is well worth the read. The research is extensive, and the conclusions are insightful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    kelsey

    What a beautiful and important book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I received an advance copy of this book from another online book group. I’m glad to have read this book because I learned background on Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little that I didn’t previously know, but a good deal of what these mothers contributed to the lives of their sons seems to be what the reader would assume a “good” mother would do and the presumption that only their sons’ better traits were shaped by their mothers. I’m still not clear how these women had insights that sh I received an advance copy of this book from another online book group. I’m glad to have read this book because I learned background on Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little that I didn’t previously know, but a good deal of what these mothers contributed to the lives of their sons seems to be what the reader would assume a “good” mother would do and the presumption that only their sons’ better traits were shaped by their mothers. I’m still not clear how these women had insights that shaped a nation; however, this book is a good introduction to the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    "The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world." Malcolm X Three intelligent mothers who believed in equality and respect for all; three mothers raising three sons who would make an indelible mark in history as they fought in their different ways for their rights as American citizens. Three mothers born within a few years of each other, all outliving their famous sons. These mothers had much in common, although their circumstances and "The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world." Malcolm X Three intelligent mothers who believed in equality and respect for all; three mothers raising three sons who would make an indelible mark in history as they fought in their different ways for their rights as American citizens. Three mothers born within a few years of each other, all outliving their famous sons. These mothers had much in common, although their circumstances and resources were quite different. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin were all taught, molded and deeply loved by Alberta, Louise, and Berdis respectively. As a white woman living in 2021 I can only imagine the anguish and hardships of poor black woman raising children in the Jim Crow South. Although all three were promising students, only Alberta King was able to obtain a college degree. With the support and love of her family she was able to pursue a career and develop her musical talents. Neither Louise nor Berdis had families that were able to support them or provide the finances that would have given them choices. Poverty was a constant for Louise and Berdis. Racial discrimination and violence by white supremacists were present for all three, but they would not be defeated by it, nor would they allow their sons to be defined by it. The influence of a mother, both negative and positive, has long been know. Alberta, Louise, and Berdis represented the very best a mother can be under some of the worst conditions. They were united in their belief in the value of education. They held fast to their convictions of self worth, respect, and dignity. They believed change was possible and there was hope in the future. These beliefs guided these three icons of the Civil Rights Movement. This book arose out of the author's doctoral dissertation on Black motherhood. It is a perspective of history that has needed a voice. While never underestimating the travails these mother endured, I did feel this well-researched book might have given a smidgen of credit to mothers in general. How many mothers of other Black men and women have been overlooked? How many mothers of famous men and women of any race have been neglected?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Spotted this via a New York Times article and thought it sounded like an interesting read. We know the names and more of the histories of their sons, but we don't know much about the mothers of these famous men. How were they, all Black women, part of the historical narrative that involved Jim Crow and would shape their sons to become the men we know today? I know various bits of these three men from school as well as reading things like Malcolm X's autobiography, a biography of Coretta Scott Kin Spotted this via a New York Times article and thought it sounded like an interesting read. We know the names and more of the histories of their sons, but we don't know much about the mothers of these famous men. How were they, all Black women, part of the historical narrative that involved Jim Crow and would shape their sons to become the men we know today? I know various bits of these three men from school as well as reading things like Malcolm X's autobiography, a biography of Coretta Scott King, Baldwin's 'Giovanni's Room', etc. but I didn't know what to expect. It probably wasn't a surprise that all three women had a hand in shaping their sons and influence who they would each grow up to be and if you're not someone who is familiar with any or all three of these men there's probably insights you wouldn't know elsewhere. That said, the negative reviews are on point. I'm not entirely sure either as to what telling the stories of these women necessarily add (especially in this combination vs. individual biographies but perhaps there wasn't enough material for that). It also does painfully read like an academic dissertation rather than a readable biography but your experience may vary. Ultimately this wasn't really for me but I can absolutely see this as a book of reference or for research purposes or as a related reading for a class, etc. Library borrow for me and that was best.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christi Flaker

    Being a mother can be a thankless job that many of us wouldn't trade for the world. We don't need credit for what we do, we don't need praise or adoration. This book however attempts to give some credit, some praise, some adoration for the mothers of three strong men that brought to the world three important figures in the black community; James Baldwin, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Much has been written about these men, but little is known of their mothers. The author has researched the Being a mother can be a thankless job that many of us wouldn't trade for the world. We don't need credit for what we do, we don't need praise or adoration. This book however attempts to give some credit, some praise, some adoration for the mothers of three strong men that brought to the world three important figures in the black community; James Baldwin, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Much has been written about these men, but little is known of their mothers. The author has researched them well but as she notes in her foreward there are points that she has to fill in and make estimations for the mothers. This book gives us a glimpse at each of the mother's life from their childhood to their life after losing their child(ren). The three come from different walks of life and followed vastly different paths through their own lives. Through these paths we see how they helped shape their famous sons into the men they became. This book also goes into the history of black women in general and the roles black women have had to fill through time. It also looks at how black women are often unfairly judged by society and often dehumanized. All in all a very powerful read on perseverance and the strength of mothers. CW: many triggers please message for specific questions Thank you to libro.fm for access to an ALC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Margaret McLane

    I just heard an interview with the author on :The 1-A", on NPR (now available on Podcast). Some brief remarks: Mothers of James Baldwin , Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. All were acomplished in their own right. They were the protectors, no one was protecting them. After reading, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he became one of my heros. I'm facinated and delighted to hear this new information about his mother. She notes that the role of black mothers [and I'd add, of all mothers of color in the U I just heard an interview with the author on :The 1-A", on NPR (now available on Podcast). Some brief remarks: Mothers of James Baldwin , Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. All were acomplished in their own right. They were the protectors, no one was protecting them. After reading, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he became one of my heros. I'm facinated and delighted to hear this new information about his mother. She notes that the role of black mothers [and I'd add, of all mothers of color in the USA] is not only to protect and to teach their children, but in addition to those roles of all mothers, to inform and prepare them for life in a society that persecute them and will tell them they are inferior. Astounding! So articulate, she invited us to access the still unexplored caches of original documents of and about other women, mothers, whose sons were famous, (or not). Not only is this a history or set of biographies, but lessons we can apply in our current lives. I look foreword to reading this.!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather Johnson

    This is an homage to Black motherhood through the powerful lens of the lives of Berdis, Alberta, and Louise, better known as the mothers of James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. While the lives of these women are relatively unknown (I had no idea that Alberta was assassinated while playing organ at her church), the indelible mark they left on their sons is easily acknowledged by mothers who understand how their lives shape their own children. Author Anna Malaika Tubbs takes pain This is an homage to Black motherhood through the powerful lens of the lives of Berdis, Alberta, and Louise, better known as the mothers of James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. While the lives of these women are relatively unknown (I had no idea that Alberta was assassinated while playing organ at her church), the indelible mark they left on their sons is easily acknowledged by mothers who understand how their lives shape their own children. Author Anna Malaika Tubbs takes painstaking effort to lift up these women and recognize how Black motherhood takes many shapes, but its importance is cast aside over and over again with institutions that prevent them from experiencing safety in its ranks as they are deemed "strong" and able to withstand the injustices they and their children so often face. I would love to get my hands on a physical copy of this book, presuming photographs and primary documents are included, adding to the richness of this already incredible story of three women whose sons shaped the trajectory of civil rights in the United States.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    This is a story about the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin—Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. The author talks about what these women symbolize in black American womanhood throughout American history, and what they witnessed. This book talks about how they inspired others through raising their children and through their teachings. In this book, we get a rich history of so many places, people, and generations, yet it was woven into a narrative form th This is a story about the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin—Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. The author talks about what these women symbolize in black American womanhood throughout American history, and what they witnessed. This book talks about how they inspired others through raising their children and through their teachings. In this book, we get a rich history of so many places, people, and generations, yet it was woven into a narrative form that makes it highly digestible. Three Mothers takes these fascinating and vital figures from the margins of history and puts them in the spotlight like they deserve to be. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/ann...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Seth Turner

    Well researched and perfectly presented biography of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. Written with care and love to show how these three mothers shaped not only their respective sons but how they contributed to shaping America. Each a pebble in a pond creating ripples that have been hidden too long. In the same vein as Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Tubbs brings their stories to light. A perfect read for now, for Black History Month, for Women’s History Month, and for Mo Well researched and perfectly presented biography of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. Written with care and love to show how these three mothers shaped not only their respective sons but how they contributed to shaping America. Each a pebble in a pond creating ripples that have been hidden too long. In the same vein as Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Tubbs brings their stories to light. A perfect read for now, for Black History Month, for Women’s History Month, and for Mother’s Day.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    Listened to this for free thanks to Libro.fm.! I really enjoyed learning about the women highlighted in this book, and thought the stories inspiring and interesting. The writing could be a bit repetitive, and I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this book to my students because of the complex vocabulary. Overall, I learned a lot and enjoyed it!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    Reading about the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, and James Baldwin. They were each incredible women in their own right and you can see the impact that each had on her son in how they approached the world and activism. Tubbs did an excellent job digging into the mothers' background, and individual struggles, choices, and triumphs. There is so much love and support within the pages of this book - it's a beautiful tribute to the compassion and strength of these women. Reading about the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, and James Baldwin. They were each incredible women in their own right and you can see the impact that each had on her son in how they approached the world and activism. Tubbs did an excellent job digging into the mothers' background, and individual struggles, choices, and triumphs. There is so much love and support within the pages of this book - it's a beautiful tribute to the compassion and strength of these women.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I really liked the way this book was set up - biographies of these three women to tell the story of the 20th century. Each woman’s particulars were told while being grounded in the wider world at the time. Three fascinating and unique women.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I love it when a book delves deeply, compassionately, and so very readably into stories and lives I knew nothing about. THREE MOTHERS is a fast, enlightening read about Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, three Black women who faced down the challenges of racism to give us three world-changing sons, thereby changing the world themselves. They all outlived their sons, as no mother should ever have to do, and though neither sons nor mothers are with us any longer, their influence live I love it when a book delves deeply, compassionately, and so very readably into stories and lives I knew nothing about. THREE MOTHERS is a fast, enlightening read about Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, three Black women who faced down the challenges of racism to give us three world-changing sons, thereby changing the world themselves. They all outlived their sons, as no mother should ever have to do, and though neither sons nor mothers are with us any longer, their influence lives on, sadly needed as much as ever all these years later. With this book, author Anna Malaika Tubbs gives us a beautifully written, hopeful answer to the question, "Will we ever learn?" As her story about Louise, Berdis, Alberta, and Black motherhood in general proudly joins the shelf of books essential for teaching us how to face down racism ourselves, that answer draws closer to becoming a resounding "YES!"

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim Grubbs

    This was a really great story of how the women in these men's lives had such impact in their development. Great read! This was a really great story of how the women in these men's lives had such impact in their development. Great read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elinore Simpson

    It is an honor to read Anna Malaika Tubb’s book about the impactful and inspirational lives of these incredible women. Anna’s telling of their story has a depth and a vibrancy that only a scholar of her caliber could create. After reading this book it becomes undeniable how pivotal these courageous women were in shaping the lives of their famous sons, and through their guidance and wisdom, it became possible for their sons to change the nation. These mothers were the most bold type of visionarie It is an honor to read Anna Malaika Tubb’s book about the impactful and inspirational lives of these incredible women. Anna’s telling of their story has a depth and a vibrancy that only a scholar of her caliber could create. After reading this book it becomes undeniable how pivotal these courageous women were in shaping the lives of their famous sons, and through their guidance and wisdom, it became possible for their sons to change the nation. These mothers were the most bold type of visionaries, ones who wanted not only a better present moment for their families, communities and the nation, but who were also able to imagine a better world even when faced with a society that repeatedly told them that such a life would never be available to them. This is a collection of stories that not only needs to be told but is especially timely and needs to be told so that our nation may continue the path forward that these mothers and their sons began. The perseverance, compassion, and insight of these mothers deserves the utmost respect, and I am grateful that Anna has brought their stories to life.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doug Wells

    Far too often, history is written about men, by men. This book is remarkable in so many ways - add it to your reading list.

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