On the occasion of Mother's Day, 2021: Three Mothers of Particular Importance
In preparation for this post, I've been reflecting on the importance of motherhood--how much it matters, and yet how often it is undervalued, even and especially today.
Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of the new Macmillan title The Three Mothers, examines the role and influence of lesser known--perhaps even dismissed--women in the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin: their mothers.
Tubbs traces the complex and the connected ways these women helped to shape their iconic sons. She considers how Alberta King's early participation in marches and the NAACP, as well as her gospel roots, informed her son's faith and his heart for social justice. She explores the life of Louise Little, mother of Malcolm X, a member of the Marcus Garvey movement whose home was destroyed by white supremacists seeking to keep her family silent. She wouldn't have it (nor would her son). Finally Tubbs reviews the letters of Berdis Baldwin, who penned messages of hope and healing to embolden her recipients, including James.
Tubbs' view of motherhood was formed by her experience growing up in different countries, from the US to Sweden to Dubai, and through the keen observations of her own mother on how mothers were treated in these places. As the first partner of the mayor of Stockton, CA, Tubbs herself led a research initiative focused solely on the status and needs of the women in her city so as to inform local policy and decision making. In doing so she put action to her mother's belief that "if a mother is treated well in her community, that community will do well" (Tubbs, "Supporting Mothers").
My hope is that Tubbs' personal story and professional research will spur interest in her book. We live in a time where women (working mothers and women of color in particular) are leaving the workforce at an alarming rate. (Here, I point to the work of another Macmillan author, economist Betsey Stevenson.) Any reminder, big or small, of the impact these women can have when they are valued and supported seems warranted. Undoubtedly at least one of them is raising the next great orator, advocate for justice, or person of letters.
Joy Fisher Williams is part of the marketing team at Macmillan Learning. She is currently working with Dr. Kendra Mitchell and her colleagues at Florida A&M University on the Fourth HBCU Symposium on Rhetoric and Composition, September 23-25, 2021, where Anna Malaika Tubbs will be a keynote speaker.