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The daily beast

How three powerful black mothers helped shape U.S. history

AP Photo / Tony Camerano The opening story of The Autobiography of Malcolm X tells about Malcolm’s mother, Louise Little, confronting the Ku Klux Klansmen who came up to her house in Omaha, Nebraska, screaming for her husband to come out. Little, who was pregnant with Malcolm at the time, opened the door for them and told them that her husband was away and that she was alone with her three grandchildren. Anna Mailaika Tubbs also tells this story in her book The Three mothers: how the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin shaped a nation, as an example of how Little, like his ancestors in Grenada, resisted white oppressors. and his siblings on current events and “the Garveyite principles of self-determination, autonomy, discipline and organization,” Tubbs writes in the book. Outstanding men like Malcolm X are not born out of thin air, and in his book Tubbs shows how Little, Alberta King, and Berdis Baldwin raised their sons to be extraordinary leaders. She tells the personal story of these women – Little came from Granada and followed her uncle to Montreal to work for the Marcus Garvey movement; King grew up in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which his parents ran (and where newly elected Georgian Senator Raphael Warnock is now senior pastor); and Baldwin, originally from an island off Maryland, was part of the Great Migration, leaving the South to go first to Philadelphia and later settling in Harlem during its Renaissance. at the center, ”Tubbs told The Daily Beast of mothers. “I thought about writing about the wives or sisters of famous men, but I was really into the notion of woman before man.” While writing the book, Tubbs became pregnant with her son, and she found it astounding to think what these women who had their children in the 1920s went through a country hostile to their existence. “They found ways to humanize themselves and their children,” Tubbs said. “I was editing chapters with my son taking a nap on my chest, and it was really deep and moving.” Tubbs says that mothers’ passions and hopes for the future directly affected what became of their sons. and those letters to the school that teachers and principals have talked about, ”she said. “It’s similar to James Baldwin that even when he says something so simple, it’s so poignant, and he inherited that straight from his mother. And when you think of Malcolm X as that radical figure who will do whatever it takes to express black unity and pride, it comes from his mother. Marcus Garvey was this Pan-African activist who spoke about the self-sufficiency of our community, and there are direct links between her organization and his, the Nation of Islam. As for Martin Luther King Jr., he would not have had the “When she meets her husband he is considered almost illiterate and she went to college, and she and her parents built the Ebenezer Baptist Church. , and when they got married, the husband moved in with his family. Their tradition is to go to Spellman and Morehouse, which MLK Jr. also does. And then he becomes the head of the church with his father – all because of her and her family. Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American: A Memoir, has known Tubbs since she was a freshman at Stanford University and Lythcott-Haims was dean there. She thinks Tubbs’ book is unique in that it highlights these women and how they influenced their sons. “Mothers are systematically neglected,” she says. “We act like every amazing person is self-taught, but these men had a foundation in their childhood that no doubt strengthened and encouraged them to become who they were.” Tubbs, who obtained her MA in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies from the University of Cambridge, where she is now a doctoral candidate. candidate in sociology, knew that she wanted to write something related to the erasure of black women. It’s an erasure that she experienced firsthand, she says, and especially because of the position of her husband Michael Tubbs (until recently he was mayor of Stockton, Calif., Where he initiated a universal basic income program which has attracted national attention); people tend to give him credit for everything related to their son. “We’ve been to events where I’m sitting next to him, and people come up to him and say, ‘Congratulations on the birth of your son’,” Tubbs mentioned. “And I’m not a quiet or reserved person, so I’ll say, ‘I didn’t know Michael could give birth. It’s incredible! Or they attribute different characteristics to our son like: “He is so strong like his father”, or “He is so smart like his father” or “Maybe he will be mayor one day like his father”. This is a constant, mothers being taken for granted, as if there is no way we are imparting strength or intellect. While doing research for The Three Mothers, Tubbs encountered this erasure in the absence of details about the lives of these women. – especially about their life before they were wives and mothers, so she researched the circumstances surrounding their lives. She found out that Berdis Baldwin’s mother had died giving birth to him on Deal Island, a remote location whose sparse population depended on water for work. Grenada, Louise Little’s birthplace, was known for its resistance to white oppression. A place called Leapers Hill marks where dozens of people jumped to their deaths rather than surrendering to the French trying to colonize them. And Alberta King was born into a loving family in Atlanta, a place that later became known as “the black Mecca of the South,” where his father was a co-founder of the NAACP chapter. the history of the United States during their lifetime, for example writing about how the country became more segregated under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, and about a progressive discourse on race that Warren Harding gave when he was president. Tubbs writes about police brutality and life under Jim Crow to show the state of terror in which black women often lived. She also points out that after 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in 1955, it was her mother, activist Mamie Till, who made the decision to have a casket open at her public funeral so that people could seeing the swollen and disfigured body of her son, which was a catalyst for the civil rights movement. The inclusion of these elements in the book shows what black women have endured, Lythcott “Throughout history, the biography and analysis, we see the strength and resilience of black women in the face of violence and degradation, ”she said. “It’s a love letter to motherhood and black mothers, and how these women provided platforms for their very famous offspring to stand on.” Learn more about The Daily Beast. Get our best stories delivered to your inbox every day. Subscribe now! Learn more.


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