How these three unsung Black moms indelibly formed the civil rights motion

While the achievements of civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin are anchored in the history books, the lives of the three women who made a tremendous impact on their lives – their mothers – are less well known.

Now these women’s stories have found their way into her own book, The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, by author Anna Malaika Tubbs. Tubbs was on the show with Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist and Errin Haines from The Morning on Friday to share what she found out about these remarkable women.

“We can’t really know these sons without knowing their mothers’ stories,” Tubbs said. “They are direct links to the work of these women before they became mothers and after … and their sons were also aware of the impact their mothers had on their lives.”

Ms. Alberta King Sr., mother of Martin Luther King.AP

Alberta King, the mother of Martin Luther King Jr., was the director of Ebenezer Baptist Church before her son famously served there. King was born in Atlanta in 1903 and grew up in the city’s affluent black community known as the Sweet Auburn Historic District. She raised her son with a strong belief in God and inspired his commitment to nonviolent resistance. Her own parents before her also led the congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

“[She] was this incredible social activist, “said Tubbs. “She believed that belief [was built on] social justice and if you are a religious leader you had to believe that you fought for the oppressed, that you made sure that you used your privilege to move the cause forward. “She and her parents were some of the early members of the NAACP, and she participated in marches and boycotts.

“The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation” by Anna Malaika Tubbs. Amazon / Amazon

Louise Little, the mother of Malcolm X, was also an activist. Her deep commitment to black independence, black pride and Pan-Africanism is reflected in her son’s life’s work. Little was born in Grenada in the late 19th century. She never knew her father and grew up with her mother, grandmother and aunts in a strong female household. She was an early supporter of Marcus Garvey’s Black Liberation Movement, which took root in her son’s own activism. Like Alberta King, a schoolteacher, Little was highly educated and used her skills to the benefit of herself and others.

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“She actually writes for the Negro World Newspaper,” said Tubbs. “She thinks you are standing up for yourself [and] You stand up for your worth and demand to be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. “

James Baldwin and his mother Emma Berdis Jones Baldwin at his 60th birthday celebration at the UMass Campus Center in August 1984.DR. Irma McClaurin

Emma Baldwin, who went by the first name Berdis, was also a writer who inspired the literary, poetic and theatrical works of her son, the famous civil rights writer James Baldwin. Berdi’s Baldwin began to express himself through writing and poetry at a young age, dealing with the grief of her mother’s death during childbirth. James Baldwin was born in New York City in 1924 amid the thriving Harlem renaissance.

“She believed that she was helping other people through the darkness, through her own pain, through her writing,” said Tubbs. “She would give them these letters to help them see the world differently, find more healing, find more progress. And it is no coincidence that her son becomes the famous writer James Baldwin, who describes himself as a “witness to the power of light”. “

While these three women led inspiring lives, they also found tragic goals. Alberta King was murdered in her church in 1974 while playing the organ during Sunday services. She had served her family and community as a source of strength under mysterious circumstances shortly after the murder of her son Martin and shortly after the death of her other son.

For Louise Little, a few years after her husband died in a suspicious car accident, Tubbs explained how a white male doctor diagnosed her with dementia and took her to a mental hospital against her will. Their children were placed in foster families.

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“We honor the mothers by telling their stories,” agreed Mika Brzezinski Tubbs. Willie Geist, co-host of “Morning Joe”, called these women the “Godmothers of the Movements” and noted how these three women have changed this country so profoundly.

“When I started writing this book, I was only interested in telling these stories myself,” said Tubbs. “I knew they were going to be interesting. I knew they deserved to be told. “She said she didn’t want to talk about how each son’s actions affected her upbringing.

“But what shocked me, the most surprising part of this research, was how obvious the connections were between the mothers and their sons. And it made it even clearer that we’d deleted them pretty deliberately, ”Tubbs said. “We need to provide more context, remind us of where we are today as a nation and what connections we have to our history.”

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