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

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"Tubbs' 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' 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

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.

A New York Times Bestsellers Editors' Choice
An Amazon Editor's Pick for February
One of theSkimm'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"


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.


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