Who or what inspired you to write the book, The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped A Nation?
I have always been passionate about correcting the erasure of Black women, when I started my PhD I knew I wanted to bring attention to Black women who had been wrongfully forgotten. We often hear the saying that “behind every great man is a great woman,” a saying that really bothers me, because most likely in such cases that woman is right beside the man if not leading him.
So I wanted to think about things differently and introduce the woman before the man.
I believe mothers are some of the most underappreciated and unseen people in society and I felt it was time to honor them with the attention and credit they deserve.
With all of this in mind, I dove into researching mothers of famous Black men and when I came across Alberta, Berdis, and Louise stories that were filled with nuance, diversity, as well as similarities and intersections as a result of the closeness in their birthdays as well as their famous sons’ birthdays, I just knew I had to dive deeper and share their names with the world.
Their lives offer guidance and encouragement for Black women today, they show us different ways to be women, Black women, Black mothers, activists, educators, and much more. They remind us how difficult the world can be while also showing us ways to actively change it.
While doing research for your book, are there any stories or experiences you learned about that are not included in the book?
There aren’t many I left out that I could find because there was already a scarcity of information on each of the women.
Alberta’s daughter, Christine King Farris wrote about Alberta remembering losing her sibling when she was very young and this being one of the reasons she wanted a big family because she grew up as an only child. James Baldwin also wrote about the time when he was arrested in France after an acquaintance of his stole some sheets and while he was in jail he said all he could think about was his mother’s (Berdis’) cooking – I thought this story was special but couldn’t find where to place it in the book. With Louise, there are a few parts of her story that some don’t agree ever happened. For example, it’s been said that she was the product of rape but the family who I was able to speak to for the book said that this wasn’t the case, so I don’t include that as part of her story.
What life lesson(s) did you learn, while investigating the topics for the book?
During the research and writing for this book I also became a mom and now as I continue my virtual book tour I am pregnant with my second child so I’ve definitely learned a lot about parenting through this whole process. I’ve learned how important it is to know that my role as a mother matters, that my identity before becoming a mother has not been replaced but that instead it is very much contributing to my motherhood. I’ve also learned that it is important to make sure my children know my story.
Do one or more of the three mothers, included in your book, remind you of your mother in any way?
I haven’t been asked this before! There are parts of each woman’s story that I think many can relate to. The biggest similarity I see is that my mom, just like these three mothers, cared deeply about keeping her kids informed about what was happening in the world and encouraging our curiosity. She also made sure that we felt confident in our ability to change things in the world that we didn’t like, we didn’t just have to accept anything.
In honor of Mother’s Day, is there anything you would like to say to mothers and their children?
Through writing this book, I was given the life-changing gift of studying three incredible mothers while diving deep into the world of maternal theory and learning about the liberatory power of revolutionary motherhood. As a result, I see mothers as the stars of the show, the shot callers, the ones in control of their and their families’ journeys. I see the changes that come with motherhood as awe inspiring and powerful. I want more people to see motherhood this way because I truly believe that if they did, it would change the world as we know it.
Motherhood is not for everybody, but extraordinary things can happen when we see mothers in all the power and glory that they deserve. The view we hold of motherhood, and womanhood more broadly, influences the wellbeing and prosperity not only of individual families but of entire communities, cities, and countries.
All my best,
– Anna Malaika NtiAsare-Tubbs, NEW BOOK JOY Guest Contributor
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ABOUT THE GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Anna Malaika NtiAsare-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 BA in Anthropology, Anna received a Master’s from the University of Cambridge in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies.
Outside of the academy she is an educator and DEI consultant. She lives with her husband, Michael Tubbs, and their son Michael Malakai.
Read more about her and her books on her website www.annamalaikatubbs.com.
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