Celebrating Women's History: Remembering the Mothers of Three Iconic Civil Rights Figures

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Anna Malaika Tubbs on the Historical Contributions of Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little

I cannot fully express just how much hurt and frustration the erasure and misrecognition of women and mothers, especially Black women and mothers, causes me. In my own life I’ve experienced others demeaning me and questioning my abilities simply because I am a Black woman. How many times have men threatened my sense of safety, hollering at me from their cars? How many times have I heard I was given an opportunity only because of the color of my skin? How many times has another person’s looks or comments tried to make me question my worth? I cannot say; there have been too many.

I also cannot tell you how many times people have been surprised by my intellect and my successes because they assume my biggest accomplishment was marrying my husband. My own work has often been hidden behind his, not for lack of his appreciation but because we still live in a world where women of color are not fully seen. Now that I am a mother, this erasure takes place on new levels. I have stood at events right next to my husband while he was congratulated on the birth of “his” son.

I could list pages of examples from my own life, but my new book, The Three Mothers, is about Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. I mention these moments now to simply say this work is personal for me. I am tired of Black women being hidden, I am tired of us not being recognized, I am tired of being erased. In this book, I have tried my best to change this for three women in history whose spotlight is long overdue, because the erasure of them is an erasure of all of us. Denying a person recognition is not only frustrating and hurtful, it is violent because it denies their existence, their power, their imprint on the world. It claims it is okay to treat them as less than, as unworthy of being seen, as not needing protection, love, or respect.

The crucial contributions Alberta, Berdis, and Louise made to their families have been ignored for decades and were largely unappreciated while they were alive. They were not given the credit they deserved for the ways in which they fought for their families and the ways in which their love allowed not only for their survival but for the progression of Black freedom at a national and even international level.

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