Anna Malaika Tubbs Discusses ‘Three Mothers’ of Civil Rights at Pitzer

Anna Malaika Tubbs, Jan Barker Alexander, and Bee Joyner sit side by side in orange chairs on a black stage. Barker Alexander holds up a mic while speaking to the audience.
Anna Malaika Tubbs, Jan Barker Alexander, and Bee Joyner ’24

Author Anna Malaika Tubbs visited Pitzer College on January 30 to discuss her book The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation. Tubbs joined Pitzer community members in Benson Auditorium for an intergenerational conversation about Black motherhood and personhood.

Tubbs discussed her work with Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jan Barker Alexander and Bee Joyner ’24, who asked Tubbs about how she told American history through Black women’s eyes. Their talk was the first installment of Pitzer’s Presidential Initiative on Constructive Dialogue and was co-sponsored by the Melvin L. Oliver Racial Justice Initiative.

The thesis of Tubbs’ critically acclaimed book is that Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin shaped America because of how they raised their influential sons. Yet their stories had never been told before. Tubbs was pregnant with her first child when she was writing her book. She described how these women guided her and reminded her of Black motherhood’s joy and magic—even amid pain.

All three women outlived their sons. Tubbs did not shy away from this fact, but she infused a vulnerable humanity that she said is often missing when people talk about Black mothers as strong. Barker Alexander and Joyner also shared how their generations (Gen X and Gen Z respectively) have understood gender, race, and motherhood.

“A big goal of mine is that … Black women are not less than human and they’re not more than human, but that we are human,” said Tubbs.

Barker Alexander thanked the many Pitzer community members who helped make the event happen. These included President Strom C. Thacker, who started the Presidential Initiative on Constructive Dialogue to facilitate thoughtful, open conversations about challenging issues.

Watch the full recording of Anna Malaika Tubbs: The Three Mothers here.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Office of Communications
[email protected]