The Three Mothers: Book summary and reviews of The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

The Three Mothers

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

by Anna Malaika Tubbs

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs X
The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs
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Book Summary

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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This information about The Three Mothers shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Rory A. (Ventura, CA)

Men Have Never Been the Only Ones to Make History, and It's Finally Time to See the Light!
History in the present day is about finally illuminating what has always been pushed into dark corners and completely ignored. Anna Malaika Tubbs is one of the great many leading the charge, with this in-depth chronicle of the lives of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin.

Tubbs' greatest strength and heart in the book is keeping the women connected, with all their commonalities, their struggles, their power, their heartbreak, their drive giving to us insight into what they endured, and how their heroic sons were influenced by their powerful day-to-day example.

All three are phenomenal women that hopefully is just the start, thanks to Tubbs, in bringing much more of this to the fore. It's ever more crucial in these tumultuous times.

Colleen F. (Carrollton, TX)

The Three Mothers
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 we 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 sons' deaths.

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 BookBrowse for giving me the opportunity of this advanced reading book.

Shirley L. (Norco, LA)

Needs More Heart Less Info
I loved the opening story the author told of the night she discovered that she was to become a black mother to her son. It was heartfelt, relatable, and so human. I only wish that tone had continued throughout the book.

This book read like a very good, well researched doctoral dissertation. It would make a great supplemental text for a class on race relations or women's studies. I just was disappointed that given its current format it will probably not be read by a more general audience. The readers who could most benefit from learning about these three remarkable women will probably never read this book in its entirety. That saddens me.

Marge V. (Merriam, KS)

Great Promise But No Fulfillment
I have no problem with the writing in this book. The three mothers are representative of many women of color in history. My heart broke for the humans these mothers were. Their sons are three men in American History that are not well known enough as individuals BEFORE they became famous or infamous. I felt I was reading a text book rather a biography. The book was more of a general sociology textbook that a biography and I feel unfulfilled.

Mary (Queens, NY)

Added to What I Knew
After reading Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Many Sons, as well as presenting an art talk on the Harlem Renaissance (with a focus on the causes of the Great Migration), I looked forward to learning more about these mothers of special sons. And, while I did learn more, I missed the technique of vignettes that Wilkerson used, to "show not tell". The book spans the 20th century in its scope, and cements the legacy of these ladies in history.

Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)

Great Expectations, Average Insight
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.

...2 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Anna Malaika Tubbs

Anna Malaika Tubbs is a Cambridge Ph.D. candidate in sociology and a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a Bachelor's degree in anthropology, Anna received a Master's degree from the University of Cambridge in multidisciplinary gender studies. Outside of the academy she is an educator, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant, and the First Partner of Stockton, California. She lives with her husband, Michael Tubbs, who is the mayor of Stockton, and their son, Michael Malakai.

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