tv Anna Malaika Tubbs The Three Mothers CSPAN February 27, 2021 3:07pm-3:56pm EST
right on point as we conclude. and thanks to everybody for joining us this evening. if you are not already set getting our newsletters sign up on the website, can'tjewishmuseum.org, i sign up on the -- stay safe, be well, and good night everybody. thank you. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2. booktv on c-span2. create by america's cable television companies. today we're bright to you by these television -- brought to you by these television companies who provide booktv to viewers as public service. >> i want to welcome to atlanta, it's even virtually, congratulations to you, your
wonderful husband is like a little brother to me, so that makes you a little sister to me. congratulations on this book, on the baby you have a lot going on. please tell me how did you find time to write a book? >> yes, so, it's been an epic couple of years to say the least but i actually started to the research even before i was expecting my son, so i started my research with my ph.d steve a couple years ago and then found myself expecting him, halfway through my research, gave birth to hem when is was starting to edits the book and even edited it while he was laying on my chest and could i hear his little breathe so it was a beautiful journey to back mother while writing the book and it's sell celebrating motheredhood and different way of carrying fors could the
mothering work we do. it also was another level of connection i had with the three women i was celebrating. >> these are of course three extraordinary women and three extraordinary men. can you tell us more about how you came to put these women together in this book. >> definitely. it's been a journey. i started my piece knowing i just wanted to join other scholars who were correcting the erasure of black women's stories and was really inspired by marge holiday hidden figures "that went on to become an incredible film, and the showcase of the importance of understanding black experiences in order to understand the united states of america and where we are today, and so i had a lot of choices to make there. so many of the stories have been
erased. forgotten, and i decided i needed to kind of narrow down my search and i became really interested in starting with somebody famous, and think but the ways in which that fame was elacing anymore their lives and more often that nonerasing the women in their lives, and as having been the first partner -- having been the partner or somen who is a public figure since i was 19 heard this motion of you're the woman behind the great man, and as -- i never think of it as a compliment because if a been there right beside him and if you were not seeing me it was because you were choosing nothing seeing me so i wants the change he narrative, the women behind the man and talk about the woman before the man was conceived and i wanted to showcase mothers and i think maybe of us who do is the kind of mother work,
biological -- nonbiological teachers, essential are doing mother, and often feel underpresenterred and not seen and erased and not heard and i wanted to celebrate them and focus on these women because they were all born within five years of each other, their famous sons were born within five years of each other and that allowed me to make commentary on historic perspective and how each of the events they lived through affected them differently. so, there's a lot more to say about it but that's the background to how i arrived at studying earth bert could king, burdenis baldwin and elysee little. >> i am glad you explained the connection. there's a natural connection with martin luther king jr. and malcom x and i don't know where james baldwin and his mother fit into that. he was the voice of the movement
in so main way is didn't know house mother became part of this story. >> so many event that led to this specific project. i also write before starting my piece the -- i'm not your anything -- your negro, where james bald sin says he is a witness to his friend's work, martin and malcolm and medgar evers and what they did for our nation and world and then i thought that is cool. i see james baldwin as a natural part of this group, and so when i was speaking of the mothers and did some even preliminary research, bur disballedin added a lawyer of speaking to writeleses a part of our way of giving life, our activism and we think so much about martin luther king jr. and malcom x, incorrectly as if they were direct opposites of each other but the introduction of a third
person allows us to think but the variety and the diversity of not only these theme men's approach to if the rights and and the diversity of black woman hoed and black motherhood experience to bring egging the three of them together painted a beautiful and accurate portrait of the black experience. >> did any of you research show that anytime these dim were their lives interconnected with one another? besides the interaction of their sons? >> no, they never met each other. so i think that would have been really powering if so. however -- really powerful but they interconnected sometimes in very painful ways. they were all black women who were again born in this time when jim crow reigned supreme and even if they weren't born in the united states, louise was born grenada, she was facing direct violence and
criminalization in her island and their experiences intersect because of the quotes i include the book that showcase the dehumanizing treatment that black girls, black women, black mothers were facing at the time that they lived, and the different ways in which they respond to that also showcases intersections. they're all brave, all willing to kind of put their own lives on the line. they understand their children are going to be part of this transformation of the world but even in those intersections we're able to see differences and celebrate that diversity. so, it's cool. the book goes in and out between similarities and intersections of the ways in which we are all connected as a community and how we celebrate the different approaches to that. >> and i love the way that you began your book and you talk but learning you are -- you were to become a mother, and the joy of
learning that you were pregnant but also the concern that you had about not knowing what that would mean to be a mother, so as you were writing this book and birthing your baby, did any of your preconceived notions of motherhood change? >> absolutely. and just to speak to that further, when i found out i was pregnant with my son and already had a masters and i'd been studying black feminist theory for a long time and was very well aware of the dangers of black motherhood in the united states, that whether or not your educated or have access to money, whatever it is, whether or not you're famous, that becoming a black mother in the united states is very risky. much more likely to die in child birth in and pregnancy because
you're black women and the system was built saying our bodies were different, that the pain we felt that we didn't really know that we were in pain and didn't understand our bodies and people didn't listen to us and we're still seeing remnants of that to this day. so, i was also really worried when i found out i was having a child, of course i was excited, overwhelmed with joy, but extremely worried with the knowledge i had around how dangerous this was going to be. but studying these mothers gave me incredible hope and made me feel very powerful. they never accepted these circumstances as if they were unavoidable and they had to endure pain, and instead they say, i see the world also it is other, going to be a part of change. that i'm going to chief my children how to join me in the fight for change and i'm not going to accept this notion that
i'm any less than anybody else and that allowed me to advocate for myself, i knew i wanted to work with -- when i went into the hospital, have other women of color by any side and also use this book to speak to how it can change circumstances, that this is not unavoidable, we do not have to carry these burdens as black women and need too push the nation to see us as the full human beings as we and are focus on making things different. so i felt powerful. felt influential, even in thinking about the ways they influenced each of their sons. there's obvious connections between the mother's passions, talents and that their sons were able to do for the world and i found myself and continue so toe see myself as a powerful influential person and we often think about motherhood honestly as second class citizenship. we forget the work that mothers
are doing. we take it for granted. we expect them to do it all and then we don't thank them when they do, and if something gross wrong the first one to blame specially when it comes to black mothers and i wanted to change that and i'm grateful that in studying these three women i see my motherhood in a very different light than society does. >> when you -- the dangers of black motherhood, that made my hurt sink. never heard it worded that way but there is a physical danger and then there's the social and emotional danger of being a mother. i'm mother of four so it is -- that is an interesting description but i think for anyone who is a mother and a black mother, you understand exactly what it means because you feel it.
>> yes, and having your loved one, your most precious loved one, out in a world that sees them so differently than the way you do and see it constantly in all the news stories and how many of us are being killed, day in and day out. we know that as we hold our children with us, and we also have to face that reality, get more people to see this pain that we're feeling as a community, as a people, but also say we're not going to accept this. we are going to continue to push for change, and fight for change, because we need the world to see us as well as everybody else as a human being that we deserve to be and that we are. >> well, as you researched these women i know in the book you write about the difficulty in uncovering their stories. do you believe that's because they are -- were black women of
a certain time or were their stories just not told? >> a lot of factors that contributed to their erasure. one of. the is that, yes, at the time and even today, we report words or -- record histories and people who we deem to be important, as a society, and so the hegemony, the white male. so stories are told from the white male perspective and they're not the ones who will say this black woman mattered or let's make sure we tell her story in history or let's even record the date she was born. it's who the women were not even really sure what year they were born, it's just kind of estimates because no one recorded it.
byrdist batted win. echoists these three enemy cared pit the mothers and credit their behavers their success, they celebritied they're moms. martin luther king walked reasoned everything saying he had the best mother the world. called her constantly. james baldwin wanted to be buried next to his mother. one of his dying wishes to has to eave a double plot where she would be buried next to him and when anyone came to his grave they i would woo see our interconnect their lives were. even malcom x who had problematic themes about how he feels about women, also credits his mom with saying that she was the first to teach him this kind of discipline he found in the nation of islam and many waits he was returning to her teachings by -- before he even met elijah muhammad.
so if we have this evidence that we erasedded overtime so part of this is this understand offering sexism in our see site, racism in our society and that intersectional oppression that black women are facing where people don't think our lives are worthy of documentation and that they're not worthy of celebrating. >> where do you think these women found their strength. >> several different sources. for of the story -- i'm celebrating generational knowledge and movements they're passing on to their kidders and starred before. the. their parents also really believed in their daughters. king was educated, the only surviving child of the williams family, and they say as a young woman they're going to instill in her this belief in the importance of her own education and her own voice and her own
opinion, and that matters for her strength and able to carry forward, even when multiple challenges are sacked against her. the same with birdice baldwin, he siblings and her father, she loses her mother and born in this tragedy. they all surround her with love and remind her that they're with her no matter how far away she will end um from them. with lewis little, same thing -- louise little, her grandparents were liberated slaves and knew what it was like to police in cap west and find her freedom and teach her to carry freedom in her heart and that's really the lessons i -- the mean thesis of the book, generational knowledge. they -- the boys don't pop out of in nowhere with notes how to accomplish freedom but instead they find their strength in generational knowledge and their battlegrounds and their experiences and their
communities, and it's crucial to our understanding of what they able to do for all of us. >> often refer as a negative during referring to men as mama's boys. do you see anything about these relationships, do you talk -- you bright -- wright but the strength these relationships gave to these men. was there anything but the relationships that served as a negative force these men? >> that's a great question. the book definitely is much more of a celebration and i focused much more on the positives but i think something that is important to mention is that it's not only about a generational knowledge that is passed down, also a lot of generational trauma that is passed between the family members, and i don't think it's necessarily because they were mama are's boys it made it -- mama's boys that made it difficult for enemy their own lives but the fact they were a
part of these families that were facing literal attacks for being black people, and so when we think about malcom x, very specifically, his family has so many tragic incidents that happened back-to-back-to-back. very active and very outspoken in terms of their commitment to the marcus -- pan african movement and believed in black pride before the nation of islam is established. so they become targets of the kkk, of the black legion, another white supremacy group, their house is burned down, early little, her husband, is murdered. she's not given the life insurance money and then puds away for 25 years against her will because the white male doctor says she is imagining being discriminated against. so every single one of their
rights taken away from them and so this is what malcom x grows up learning, so it's not necessarily always a positive thing that this is how he learned about white supremacy, he faces it in a very sad and very tragic way, and sometimes it almost pushes them to feel they have to risk their lives, they have no other option so i can definitely see that being something that is difficult and a burden to carry that one would hope they wouldn't have. to. >> i think also when we think but james baldwin and his relationship with his mother, he doesn't come from as much privilege as martin luther king junior dozen and he was raised poor in harlem and speaks to his experience the fact that his mother was victim of an abusive relationship. he himself was a victim of hi stepfather's abuse and his mother was as well some had ail more children with this man, and
he sees this over and over again and he sort of hates the fact she keeps becoming pregnant and it's really difficult. so the book also contends that the fact these are not perfect individuals, and they're all carrying traumas a result of a response to the racist attack its against them. >> and obviously you highlighted three extraordinary women. i'm just curious, were there any mother-son duo that you opted to leave out? because it's an extraordinary highlight of these relationships but i would imagine there were so many more you also could have put the spotlight on. >> definitely. so many more, even not mother-son duos but other children, duos generally.
decided to write about the mothers and sons because i felt erasure was happening on a different scale. maybe not a wider scale but a different one where there's this assumption that women cannot raise men or that when we talk beaut these three men, if you're a fan of any of them, if you have studied their work, you have heard but their fathers most likely because in society we think about the role that mothers play in their daughters are lives and the role that fathers play anywhere son's lives and so we think about reverend martin luther king sr. and the fact the he would a rev rep and must be where mlk jr. got it from. we become this early little and people knew he was an activist and we think but james baldwin's stepfather and say that everything james bad win -- baldwin does is a result of his
abusive stepfather. it's ridiculous, whether the fathers governor or bad influence we think they had more of an influence because of their gender and i want to change that narrative as parents, we are influencing our children and showcase it from this perspective where, again, they clearly inherited their strengths and tall lenz from their mothers helps to us reevaluate how we think about parenthood and leadership, generally it's not sex or gender, and we need to kind of start to distance ourselves from and that to give some examples with birdice baldwin, writer, poet, believed in confronting the darkness and finding the light and hope and even james baldwin, again, he inherits this writing talent from her, this creative perspective, and says many time head wants to be a witness to the power of life. power of truth. and again, thinking about the darkness, not hiding from it but
confronting it and finding a path forward. direct lessons he learns from his mother. we think about martin luther king jr., it's mother and maternal grandparents make ebenezer baptist the beacon of hope or civil rights rights and combining space with social justice that they could not be safe unless we were working to create what god would wantes to have here on earth which is everybody having equal rights, which is focusing on the poor, focusing on justice, and this is how she is raised, and even when she meets her husband, he's considered ill lit separate the has a college degree. ...
like i said earlier, it's based on these notions of standing up for your freedom, fighting against colonization, fighting against white supremacy. she finds her path in the movement. that's where she meets her husband because they are both activists. it's not only because he is, it is because they both are, that is how they come together. even after he dies and malcolm was young he continues to witness his mother stand up against these racist attacks. so not to erase the menace not to race the role of fathers, just not to erase the importance of suns is to say why are we erasing the mom quote when they clearly have
an important role to play? >> do you think these women and these relationships existed today, do you think the erasure would still be as blatant? i do think so, honestly unfortunate you do. that's only because my own personal experience i don't think only representative of me, but i know what it's like to be associated with the famous manor somebody that people know well. not only my eraser mystery, but are erased from his story. in this documentary which is awesome. even the filmmakers wanted to focus more on his dad rather than the three women who had raised him. his father has not been in his
life his entire life it's not his fault. he was put away. this only so much i can comment on the injustice of mass incarceration. but if we come in and want to tilt michael's story and we erased his mom, again we just want to focus on this mayoral narrative. it's not okay. it is wrong it's not right. i think we see it still to this day honestly i really do. think that's why this book still speaks to people even though it is a historic narrative it's also contemporary commentary on how we are still doing this. my >> it's interesting to bring that up in the context of how black women are influencing the power structures and elections across the country. i wonder if you were able to
give these three women any advice, what would your advice be to them? specifically related to how they can amplify their life's work? >> that is a great question and something i've not thought about much because i have gained so much wisdom from them. i think in terms of, if they were live today there be a lot more opportunity for their platform or space to tilt their side of the story whether that is social media or getting their work published. there's a lot more opportunity now that they were not afforded pretty think in many ways knew of their insolence by think they were modest they were humble and probably did not stand up in the same way i do and say i did that i should take credit for that.
i counsel he did because it happens all the time. even when our son was born i would be standing which to michael at events and is a congratulations to him on the birth of his son. and i would go, i didn't know michael is capable of having children but congrats, good for you. [laughter] he's very talented. not sure that something he can do. i am very outspoken about it. something i've studied for a long time i'm very sensitive to the erasure black women in our stories. i think they were somewhat aware of it even if they did not have the same opportunities to speak up against that that i am given now. i write articles about it. talk about in this book. i'm very unapologetic about addressing that. i think has to change not only for me but for many of us who
feel erased and when we are erased we are really just missing huge parts of the puzzle burden we think about policy were not going to fix thing and unless were focused on those who are being impacted the most. and a big part of erasing black women story is erasing the need to address the issue that affected us, very personally and very deeply. also it carries forward their tradition, they were telling their families about themselves. they were very proud and would stand up against the while her children watched her. she was aware they were watching her. and it mattered more to her that they see her in this crowd light she was risking her life than to see her tower bow down to her oppressor. they practice in their own ways. they wrote this letters all of their family members telling
them to live with love and to focus on light and to not carry pain in your heart. not carry hatred. so they found ways to instruct people around them. i just think we have an opportunity to do that today but it's also in her mind or to black women today to focus on her own narrative and be okay with doing that. sharing our wisdom. it helps us, the rest of us to understand how we continue to move forward in a world that really treats us in so many dehumanizing ways. how will you impart these lessons to your son? he is howled now? tsubaki is 15 months. he is just so adorable. he really is. [laughter] i can't believe these 15 months he carries himself like a full grown man. >> at this person out when you know who his parents are this
not surprising. [laughter] how and when will you begin to apply these lessons to your son? >> guest: is going to be interesting to have a mother who wrote this book about the appreciation of mothers and give credit where it is due et cetera. so i just see how that plays out. think a big part of it is not necessarily this constant see me i am here i want you to see me. it's not that. more so a fair acknowledgment for something my mom raised me with actually. she was very clear that just because she was our mom, she was not obligated to do anything for us. this kind of a funny thing would joke about now. she was always like if she cooked us a meal or drove us to our ballet practice or whatever she would set you can say thank you for that. i didn't have to do that. that took effort on my part. i could be doing my work.
it could be doing something else right now. but i want to support you. i'm a person to so if you could thank me. because we don't really think our moms. we don't think about them as human beings we are very sort of like this, you do the thing you're supposed to do and cool. it takes a little while longer maybe when we are adults we start think oh wow, my mom has done a lot for me and i should thank her for that. when i was little, ever since i can remember my mom was very clear gratitude is important. she was still her own person. and it did not cause me any pain to acknowledge that for her. so i want to continue that, that is part of the way i will teach my son that as well. and also just having honest conversations. i think part of what i learned was vulnerability is something that's helpful for all of us. but we don't put ourselves as a superhuman who couldn't
carry all of the burgeon and all of the weight and i don't need any help. i think that is unrealistic and it doesn't do any of us any favors. so also being willing to say i'm having a hard day. or, i do need some help. or i would love to speak about this. i think all three of the famous sons also have a deep understanding of the human condition. partly because they have very honest conversations with their mothers. was his mother's right-hand man initiate eight other children. he supported her through that. that was probably a huge burden for him to carry that he learned a lot about humanity. and she did not shield him from that. maybe she did not have a choice in the matter but it actually think it's something that did him a favor to not see her as a superhuman who did not have feelings of her own. see when it's interesting you talk about the roles of gender
ingratitude. i'm thinking about my four kids and i remember when my oldest was younger, he had very definitive feelings about what women should do and what men should do. i remember being perplexed by, there is nothing happening in our household that would give him the impression that was only for women to do. or only men do that. i still don't know where he was getting that from. but it was behavior that i really had to correct a lot. and i love now that with my daughter we have a chore charge. she said why do i have to wash the dishes? i always have to wash the dishes. it really does begin at such a young age. when i read about these three
extraordinary women, in their own way and leaving james baldwin's mother leaving c were children, although she was not a published writer, having the thoughtfulness to leave something with her children and that way with the other two women equally extraordinary and growing up in atlanta very familiar with the king family. there's even so much more that i did not know about alberta king. because your absolute right. their stories simply are not told. i just wonder what surprises, if any did you find in researching these women? >> the biggest surprise was how onpoint my hypothesis was
paradise started off think it would be cool to tell these stories whether or not that much of it impact in terms of connections. i just wanted to tell the stories before they can mothers and while they were mothers. all with these famous sons and two cases they tragically buried two of their sons. son david paso before she passed away. the surprises really came when i find this evidence that the principle of one schools that he directly inherited his writing talent from his mother. she writes these beautiful notes excusing his absences. i don't know how you make that beautiful. the fact that was noteworthy really speaks to her talents in her ability. it's something i sat there and
was sort of in shock we had heard about his insolence on his writing. everybody knew them sought so obviously. think about visiting ebenezer baptist. have the privilege to be there i love atlanta so much. this event means the world to me to it build speak about it not actually in person but virtually in atlanta. and to be speaking with you, did be it ebenezer baptist and be at the king's first home to have my own knowledge to see how she was being erased even in her own first home that everybody was focused on. and that makes sense within their focused on no one was happy that was her child at
home her parents got it. that was really shocking to me. i was right from the beginning. and i am excited and was excited to continue to do the research. i'm excited to put it out there. i want people to feel that same feel of shock and surprise they did not already know these facts. >> have you gotten any feedback from any of the families? >> yes, i have been incredibly supportive. at first it was difficult because they think about these three families. they have been hurt in many ways by scholars, by researchers, but all of these different people who wanted to tell their stories. these are their lives. these are their loved ones. they had to deal with being again the shadows of being famous manford also the person they really loved it deeply what about their uncle, their father whatever. they themselves also had to
deal with misunderstanding for they had to deal with treating these men as they were themselves human. return tell stories their literary figures. the approach amid much more knowledge into this much research as i possibly could do to not repeat any questions i should have already answered. also get to spend the time to get to know their perspective if they wanted to add anything personal to it. and really the ultimate goal is they knew i was doing the work. i did not want this to pop out of nowhere. i mattered so deeply to them to at least know about it. all three families knew from the beginning.
some of them were willing to speak with me. i had some really cool conversations over the phone and some in person. that just hopes to kinda fill the gap. and since the book has been out, bernice king has been incredible, doctor bernice king in terms of supporting it and people excited about it. did a peace in "time" magazine. she asks every back to read tweet. that kind of support from me makes also happy and making her proud road meet the world. trevor baldwin in helping me understand how crucial for the baldwin family saw in her uncles life is being from each other but anybody who knew
them, if you didn't know you are missing a huge part of the story. and then with the family i've been really privilege to speak to the been granted use permission to use her photo on the cover of the book. this just these little nods on a really help i've made them proud. another book is out there i can see it is a celebration. maybe they'll be comfortable in sharing even more about the women. i think there's a lot more out there to uncover. maybe she tells a few more stories. >> host: does that mean you would get a part two? >> guest: thou be really coy don't know. i write a lot about the things i'm excited about in the process as well. a part of it too is i don't want to necessarily kind of take advantage and make my whole career about that.
as a space for love and to do their part as well. sunday want to tell more and get more personal details out there. i want to get them the space to do that process to get to a children's book about this and maybe talk a little bit more i just did not feel like it was my role to do that. i think there is a time to do that and may be if the family grants me permission and they want me to it be the one that writes it. i don't want to build my career off of tone these very personal stories for myself. maybe then the line will return that. it's my debut as an author to find my career in so many ways. i am just grateful i was given permission to do this. we will see if there's any more with it. maybe also enough.
[laughter] 's >> it's hard to believe this is your debut that is so wonderfully written and so well researched. i am curious, did any family members share with you that they learn something about their loved ones through their research? >> safar that is not happened yet. i was keeping them post on things i found with baldwin's mother and the fact that i felt she probably passed away in childbirth because of her death certificate being the same month and year but he was born. how she passed away from hemorrhaging i was able to share those documents with them. they did say that was powerful to have as a whole their great-grandmother's death certificate. enter learn more about her name and her journey. there are deeds to the land that their great-grandfather
owned, i just passed as much off to them, what ever they want i will send everything to them. think it's really important as researchers to now return it for those who wrote they work for. i have not had any major surprises i think generally more a feeling they were happy or changing the narrative and make it more accurate when they have been represented as part of the uniforms that came out of nowhere without any family or background. especially painful to family members. i can say that from personal experience is just not accurate. so i think they were hang think of for that. >> i know doctor bernice king is very intentional and
speaking her mother's name. it's extraordinary that you focused on these great men print my last question, of these three extraordinary women where there is one you felt more connected to than the other? >> i feel like i told different parts of their story that i find inspiring or connected with. action the conclusion of the book i talk about how we can find ourselves by understanding their stories. really to one more than the other paid media combination. i think i see myself as a combination. i really love curtis' ability to focus on a love, and lights, and the reminder that when you carry pain and hatred in your heart, you are only hurting yourself. you're not hurting the one you have it towards. being able to find that levity
in the hope and move forward the ability to use her privilege for those around here. even though she had very unique experiences as a black woman living through jim crow and having a college education. that was really not common. she uses that to teach her students. other creativity as well though she teaches so, so many. i found that she really is incredible and inspiring. finally and acknowledging it is they are in very real. it reminds me of an iv word quote that i will paraphrase where she talks about whether
or not you are afraid they're going to grind us to death anyways. something like that. basically we can be afraid. but if you are afraid and don't do anything we are going to continue to be attacked. if you are afraid and do something that attacked might change a remote make some progress. it reminds me of that and something again i will carry in my heart. >> one of my favorites, audrey lord, i used my vision in the service of others becomes a lesson less important whether or not i am afraid. thank you for this extraordinary work. thank you for highlighting these incredible women. this should be required reading for every son and every husband across the globe.
so thank you, i look forward to your next work. i'm going to tell my dear friends, michael tubbs and i trading him in. [laughter] thank you. i don't think is going to accept it but we can try. [laughter] thank you and congratulations. >> thank you, thank you, thank you. >> you're watching book tv on c-span2. every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. book tv on cspan2, created by america's cable television company. today brought to by these television companies who provide book tv to viewers as a public service. >> i am delighted to be welcoming kenneth rosen back to talk