• The Three Mothers

  • How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation
  • By: Anna Malaika Tubbs
  • Narrated by: Anna Malaika Tubbs
  • Length: 6 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (403 ratings)

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The Three Mothers

By: Anna Malaika Tubbs
Narrated by: Anna Malaika Tubbs
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Publisher's Summary

2021 NPR Best Book of the Year

This program is read by the author.

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.

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.

Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women 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.

A Macmillan Audio production from Flatiron Books

"The Three Mothers is a fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history after raising sons who helped shape a movement. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today. An eye-opening, engrossing read!" (Brit Bennet, New York Times best-selling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers

"Anna's connection to these women is palpable on the page - as both a mother and a scholar of the impact Black motherhood has had on America. Through Anna's writing, Berdis, Alberta, and Louise's stories sing. Theirs is a history forgotten that begs to be told, and Anna tells it brilliantly." (Ibram X. Kendi, number one New York Times best-selling author of How to Be an Antiracist and National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning)

©2021 Anna Nti-Asare-Tubbs (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Anna Malaika Tubbs’ magnificent debut The Three Mothers is an intimate explication of motherhood as the shoulders upon which children stand...a literary declaration that Black women know best how to survive in this broken world while actively mending it for everyone." (Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times best-selling author of Real American and How to Raise an Adult

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Not what I hoped for

I had hoped to get insights into these women as individuals, but it was more like a presentation of suppositions of the inner thoughts of the mothers as a result of the history they lived through. Phrases like, “I am sure that so-and-so thought...” and “perhaps so-and-so felt” are unconvincing and make the author seem to be inserting her own ideas into the minds of these women. Pointing out that certain therapies were unavailable to “black women of her time” when they weren’t available to anyone at that point in history subvert the veracity of the story. Much of the commentary Is repetitive. The tone of voice and adjectives used are melodramatic rather than simply allowing the story to relate the struggles endured by these women. I felt like I was being lectured by an overbearing professor. I have so much respect for these men and looked forward to learning about their mothers. I was disappointed with the generalities used over and over again.

11 people found this helpful

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not enough about the women

an important topic, however.. My partner and I were really looking forward to this however by the time we got halfway through the book it seems like she still have not gone into any real info about the mothers it felt like the book was more about their sons we were disappointed that it seem like there wasn't even enough material to justify the whole book about the mothers. seems like they were only briefly glossed over towards the end. I was personally disappointed with the narrator I think the author should've had somebody else read it for her. most interesting part of the book was Louise and her experience in and out of mental institutions, the racism and legal issues she faced.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting

I selected this book after attending a webinar on Malcolm X. The author of this book was one of the speakers. I have to admit the book was much better than I expected. I learned quite a bit. I would say as a book about the mothers of Malcolm X Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kames Baldwin’s mothers, it was interesting.

RECOMMENDATION: READ IT

3 people found this helpful

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Insufficiently Researched

There was so much about this book I was prepared to like. The unique perspective, Black women’s history, and of course Malcolm, Martin, and James. However, it was the small mistakes that caused me to question the text overall. For example, saying that the place where the Klan saw a rebirth, Stone Mountain, GA, was less than one mile from Auburn Ave.

Then there was the dismissive handling of Marcus Garvey and his philosophy. It was clear that the author had not read enough on the subject.

Finally, the regurgitation of historical facts without nuanced insight into the women left me disappointed. This read with the quality of a scholar who has put the cart before the horse….eg an attempt at public scholarship when the author still needs training.

2 people found this helpful

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Powerful, heart breaking, inspiring

I wish that everyone would read or listen to this book. There’s a space that’s been waiting for Anna Malaika Tubbs well researched and heart felt work. I’m so thankful for the education this has provided me. The narration is amazing.

2 people found this helpful

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The Three Mothers

Everyone should read this book. It really opened my eyes to racism which has prevailed for hundreds of years and still is a huge problem in 2021. Three strong
black women raised three equally strong men who fought for freedom from
discrimination even before the Civil Rights Movement took place.

2 people found this helpful

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I shouldn’t have skipped the sample

There’s no way I can listen to this entire book with the author reading it. I don’t know why it wasn’t obvious to her that a book about black mothers should’ve been narrated by a black woman.

I bought the hard copy instead

1 person found this helpful

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Why do authors read their own work?

I should have listened to a sample before I bought this audible. I was so intrigued by the concept, I immediately clicked purchase. However, I had to adjust the speed setting to absorb the story. The narrator is too invested in her own words to let me as reader participate in the writing of this book. Reading is a shared venture. I should have purchased the hard copy. Please, next time, ask a professional black woman to read your work: an act of generosity and support.

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful storytelling!

I truly enjoyed the storytelling of the author! You can feel her passion of what she is saying in her voice!

1 person found this helpful

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  • NR
  • 08-25-22

Painful. Powerful. Poignant

Thank you for raising awareness of these women. In their stories, lies ours and the never ending quest for equity.