The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

Flatiron. Feb. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781250756121. $28.99. BIOG
Sociologist Tubbs begins this biography of three remarkable women by stating her intention to honor the subjects as accomplished and inspiring people in their own right, not only as mothers of famous men, and follows through beautifully on this promise. The stories of Berdis Baldwin (1901–99), Alberta King (1904–74), and Louise Little (1897–1991) are woven together, from their family histories and early childhoods to adolescent years, marriage, motherhood, and the losses of their sons. This makes clear the similarities and patterns among the women’s lives and how the events and challenges of their times shaped their paths. The author writes with great respect and provides just the right amount of information to leave readers with an understanding of their complicated lives, shaped by the devastating racism of early 20th-century America but full of love and independence. The narrative makes clear that each woman made possible the accomplishments of her famous child with her own resilience, determination, and activism.
VERDICT This compassionate book skillfully introduces three people who have had an important impact on the world but whose lives receive little attention. Readers will complete the book feeling their time was well spent.
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