Anna Malaika Tubbs tells three stories that are often overlooked but deeply important to civil rights history ... Tubbs also makes room for moments of discovery that help us better understand how each of these civil rights icons’ social activism and artistic endeavors were shaped by their mothers’ shining examples. For instance, Alberta King’s radical maternal tenderness set the groundwork for how her son would view himself as a 'mother' birthing a dream of racial equality ... As Tubbs explained in an interview for BookPage, there is a troubling binary between motherhood and intellectual labor, and her writing about three women whose sons’ lives were shaped by their mothers (and not vice versa) is an attempt to turn that binary on its head.
Tubbs does a masterful job of interweaving the facts of these women’s lives into the evolving social and political histories of civil rights, including accounts of the horrific injustices suffered by women of color. This book arose out of Tubbs’ doctoral dissertation on Black motherhood. Her passion to give voices to overlooked people of color is evident, and her storytelling is compelling. This important piece of scholarship and profoundly personal portrayal of African American women deserves a wide audience.
Tubbs excavates and honors [...] traditions via the mothers ... Tubbs’s portrait is an intimate narrative that aims to link not only Little, King and Baldwin, but all Black mothers, including herself (she gave birth to a son while researching and writing the book). This gives rise to an inclusive tone that can be alternately comforting and jarring: comforting when Tubbs writes of 'our' shared experience as mothers; jarring when the narrative suddenly shifts to the second-person 'you.' Still, the intersections she highlights are beautiful — and including more of them might have enriched the story even more ... There are any number of places where the reader yearns for more anecdotes, more description and, most of all, more of the mothers’ own voices ... Try as she might, not even another mother can salvage such monumental erasures.
Endurance and resilience are the themes here. In the face of racism, sexism and tremendous violence, these three mothers survive. They are honored, in these pages, as the extraordinary women they were, in their own right. This ambitious book reframes African American history, supplying the female Black experience as a much-needed perspective.
... illuminating ... presents sketches of their lives rather than full accounts ... Tubbs effectively argues that each woman had a particular impact on her son ... The tone of Tubbs’ book is celebratory.
... significant and timely ... shines a brilliant light on the influence that these three women exerted in the lives of their sons: James Baldwin, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. ... Tubbs powerfully demonstrates that the importance of these mothers has been grossly overlooked and undervalued for the same reasons that the plights of Black Americans, women in general and Black women in particular, have been buried --- or denied ... We must profusely thank Anna Malaika Tubbs for bringing these heretofore untold stories of amazing women to our attention. It should have happened long ago. I would be remiss, though, if I did not point out some flaws in the narrative that detract a bit from the power of the author’s efforts. I lay the blame for these shortcomings squarely at the feet of her editors. The basic organizational structure of the work is questionable. Chapters jump almost randomly, it seems, from general contextual background information to sections specifically about the women’s lives and then back again. There are also many instances of awkward sentence structures and ineffective word choices. And finally, the timelines are often confusing and occasionally incorrect. In one instance, for example, we read about the awful pictures of Black people that appeared in magazines, in other periodicals and books, and on television --- in the 1920s and ’30s --- before television was commercially available to the general public ... However, we should not allow these flaws to interfere with or detract from our appreciation of Tubbs’ work. She has brought to light the heroism of people whose lives have rarely been studied and presented to the public. Her book should be read and carefully considered and absorbed by every American who cares about equality, justice and the inalienable rights of Black women, Black mothers and all people of color.
This book will enlighten those interested in Black History, women’s history, and how the United States came to be the country it is today for worse and better ... a meticulously researched scholarly work ... [Tubbs] paints a bleak but realistic picture, pieced together from many sources, of how Blacks, especially Black women, were dehumanized throughout our nation’s history. This historic background serves to make the three of them shine more brightly, highlighting their courage, strength of character, resilience, and vision of a more humane society, and how they passionately fought against dehumanization and taught resistance to their sons ... This book would have been an easier read if there were separate sections for each mother and son that was solely about them. Instead Tubbs chronicles their lives—early days, later days, etc.—which may make it difficult for readers to piece together their individual stories and delineate what happened to whom. By weaving their stories together as she does, she gives us a historical view of their lives but sacrifices each of their unique stories standing out in relief against the other two.
Tubbs begins this biography of three remarkable women by stating her intention to honor the subjects as accomplished and inspiring people in their own right, not only as mothers of famous men, and follows through beautifully on this promise ... The author writes with great respect and provides just the right amount of information to leave readers with an understanding of their complicated lives, shaped by the devastating racism of early 20th-century America but full of love and independence. The narrative makes clear that each woman made possible the accomplishments of her famous child with her own resilience, determination, and activism ... This compassionate book skillfully introduces three people who have had an important impact on the world but whose lives receive little attention. Readers will complete the book feeling their time was well spent.
A welcome biography of three noted civil rights icons who were indelibly influenced by their mothers ... In her debut book, sociology doctoral candidate Tubbs, a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar, offers informative, admiring biographical portraits of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, women who shaped the lives and work of their sons Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin ... these women, Tubbs asserts, deserve attention because they represent the struggles faced by Black women from the early 1900s through the 1960s—and, attests the author, citing her own experience, even in the present ... Contextualizing the women in their tumultuous times, Tubbs examines racism, police brutality, and life under Jim Crow to establish 'the direct connection' between the mothers and their sons’ 'heroic work.' ... A refreshing, well-researched contribution to Black women’s history.
Educator Tubbs debuts with an engrossing triple biography of Alberta King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr.; Louise Little, mother of Malcom X; and Berdis Baldwin, mother of James Baldwin. Though these women have been 'almost entirely ignored throughout history,' Tubbs writes, their teachings and approaches to motherhood 'were translated directly into their sons’ writing, speeches and protests.' ... Tubbs skillfully draws parallels between each woman’s story, and vividly captures the early years of the civil rights movement. This immersive history gives credit where it’s long overdue.