Author: Anna Malaika Tubbs
"Author, advocate, educator, and scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Cambridge. Anna grew up abroad in Dubai, Mexico, Sweden, Estonia, and Azerbaijan. Influenced by her exposure to all kinds of cultures and beliefs, Anna is inspired to bring people together through the celebration of difference. Motivated by her mother’s work advocating for women’s and children’s rights around the world, Anna uses an intersectional lens to advocate for women of color and educate others.
Anna has published articles on topics ranging from celebrating motherhood to addressing the forced sterilization of Black women as well as the importance of feminism, intersectionality, and inclusivity. Her work has been featured in TIME Magazine, the Huffington Post, For Harriet, Darling Magazine, and Blavity. Her first book, titled The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, was published by Flatiron Books in February of 2021. An Amazon Bestseller and a New York Times’ Editors Pick, the book has already achieved critical acclaim and has been featured in Oprah Daily, People Magazine, USA Today, The Skimm, Fortune Magazine, MSNBC, C-Span, NPR, Forbes, The 19th News, GMA.com, Yahoo News, The Washington Post, Southern Living Magazine, and more."
1. What sparked the idea to tell the stories of the three mothers of these prominent civil rights figures?
I have always been passionate about correcting the erasure of Black women, when I started my PhD I knew I wanted to bring attention to Black women who had been wrongfully forgotten. We often hear the saying that, “behind every great man is a great woman,” a saying that really bothers me, because most likely in such cases that woman is right beside the man if not leading him. So I wanted to think about things differently and introduce the woman before the man.
I believe mothers are some of the most under-appreciated and unseen people in society and I felt it was time to honor them with the attention and credit they deserve. With all of this in mind, I dove into researching mothers of famous Black men and when I came across Alberta, Berdis, and Louise stories that were filled with nuance, diversity, as well as similarities and intersections as a result of the closeness in their birthdays as well as their famous sons’ birthdays, I just knew I had to dive deeper and share their names with the world.
Their lives offer guidance and encouragement for Black women today, they show us different ways to be women, Black women, Black mothers, activists, educators, and much more. They remind us how difficult the world can be while also showing us ways to actively change it.
2. What was it about these women’s parenting styles that brought the greatness out of each of their sons?
The three mothers had very different parenting styles from one another but a similarity they shared was teaching their children about the realities of the world, especially the racial injustices that were taking place beyond their homes while also making sure their children did not feel defined by such injustices. Instead, each of them gave their children instruction on how to participate in system-changing work.
They reached a balance of making sure their children were not ignorant to the reality of the state of their nation while also making sure their children knew their worth and their power. This allowed their children to see that they had agency and they could leave their mark on the world.
3. Overall, what do you hope readers take away from this book?
The book asks readers to see the world through the eyes of three Black mothers. They had to believe in more beyond what was offered to them, they had to envision new realities, they had to keep faith alive, and they had to do all of this because they believed in their own and their children’s worth even when it was denied by so many systems aiming to demean and destroy them.
Black mothers are revolutionary because of their ability to take the lot they have been dealt and transform it into something new. They pass this power of creation on to their children who work alongside them to make their visions reality. When we see the world in the same way that they do, there is nothing that is impossible. When we recognize our role in changing the world, there is nothing we cannot do. We must all do the work of creating the world Black mothers envision for their children and for us all. A world where our humanity and dignity are recognized, where our talents are encouraged, where our differences are celebrated.
4. What’s the best book you have read in 2021 thus far?
The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza
5. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Definitely! I already have two projects in the works. One is a picture book for children about the mothers of three contemporary Black female leaders. The second is a novel I've been working on for several years that addresses disinformation and violence against women.
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