Excerpt: "The Three Mothers"

In honor of Black History Month, an excerpt from a book celebrating the untold stories of the mothers who raised and influenced Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin.

Anna Malaika Tubbs

February 25, 2021

Excerpt: "The Three Mothers"

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates the untold stories of the mothers who raised and influenced three Civil Rights icons. An excerpt from the book below: 

In the lives of Louise, Alberta, and Berdis exists a record of the United States and Black American history, through the eyes of Black women over a century. Among the three of them, they lived through the elections of 19 U.S. presidents, World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the space race, and even the Monica Lewinsky scandal. They were alive for key events in Black history, including the formation of the NAACP, the beginnings of Black sororities and fraternities, the Red Summer, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, the lynching of Emmett Till, the civil rights movement, the brutal attack of Rodney King, and so much more. And of course, they did not just live to see these moments, they played active roles in them.

They birthed and raised three of the most prominent champions of human rights to ever walk the earth. It is clear that Malcolm, Martin, and James were all part of a legacy much larger than themselves, and they had their mothers to thank, not only for their lives but for the direct instruction on how to survive in the world while actively changing it. Martin even used the notion of motherhood as a metaphor for every time he felt the pain of risking his life for the sake of his nation. A mother fully experiences the agony of bringing a child into the world, yet she is consoled by the life she has created.

The lives and legacies of Louise, Alberta, and Berdis teach both the similarities and the differences among three Black women. All three were selfless and forced to shift their own passions for the sake of their families. This was not something any of the three regretted; instead, it was something they made work for themselves and for their children. It is another example of how they persevered with heads held high in the face of circumstances unique to their identities as Black women and mothers.