Alberta Christine Williams King
, a powerful organizer
, was also a singer and an instrumentalist who trained hundreds of students
. She had a bachelor’s degree as well as a teaching certificate
, and she even tutored her husband through his own education
As clear as her impact was on her children, her story has largely been erased from our telling of history — e purtroppo, this is not unique to her. Mothers generally, and Black mothers more specifically, are so often misrepresented or completely erased from the stories we share among ourselves as well as in literature and media.
Society too often views mothers as beings without needs of their own for others to consider or respect. Instead of celebrating their contributions, we take them for granted — especially mothers who stay at home with their children and those who face impossible choices about work and family. We fail to provide them with support or protection.
It is becoming harder for women to retain their right to choose when they even want to become mothers
, we are experiencing a maternal mortality crisis
, we have yet to establish universal parental leave
, child care is too expensive for most families and hundreds of thousands of mothers have been forced to walk away from their jobs as a result of the pandemic
The Build Back Better Act tries to address these issues by increasing the Child Tax Credit, establishing at least some weeks of guaranteed parental leave, offering universal Pre-K, providing postpartum Medicaid to uninsured mothers, even helping more doulas to get trained, tuttavia, it is still being debated in Congress and is unlikely to pass. In breve, the state of motherhood in our country remains a perilous one and it will continue to be for years to come unless we can experience a cultural shift in our perspective of motherhood that will force our policy to follow.
A simple step in the right direction is to tell Alberta King’s storia because when we do
, we are also forced to reckon with the fact that so much of what she confronted is still standing in the way of mothers today
She was on her journey to becoming an educator before she met her husband
— but because of a rule that married women could not teach in nine states
, in starting a family
, she had to walk away from her career
. She gave birth to her three children at home with a midwife
, choosing to be with the women in her family rather than at a segregated hospital where she would be met with bias and potential mistreatment
She lost two of her children before her own untimely passing
. She herself was killed in
1974 by a young man who came to Ebenezer Baptist one day who said his mission was to kill all Christians
. He shot Alberta in the back while she played the church organ
, just a short distance from where her son was buried
. Had she lived longer
, there is no telling just how much more of an impact she would have had on her community and on our entire country
I imagine if more people took the time to know her story, to even reflect on the pain she experienced in life, to think about the power of her motherhood and the ways in which she persisted and led her family despite racism and sexism in our country, we would be much further along in our policy decisions.
If we chose to see mothers and their influence on our world, we would understand that what is best for them is best for us all.
As people around the world are celebrating MLK Jr.’s contributions, Alberta also deserves celebration for introducing him to the ideas that he is so revered for. She too deserves to be honored posthumously, just as she deserved to be seen, supported, and protected in life. All mothers do.
MLK Jr. did not become who he was on his own, he did not exist separate from his loved ones. He was a husband, a father, un fratello, a leader who fought for civil rights as his mother had done. He was once a little boy who liked to play jokes on people. He was Alberta’s son.