Groton School celebrates Martin Luther King Day with bestselling author Anna Malaika Tubbs

On what would’ve been Martin Luther King Jr.’s ninety-fifth birthday, Groton School honored his life and legacy with a day of celebration, introspection, and community service.

Sunday snow squalls and morning temperatures in the low twenties were no match for the warmth in the Campbell Performing Arts Center (CPAC), as students, faculty, and staff gathered on a day off from classes to begin MLK Day together. Student singers Sage Greaves ’26 and Michelle Manza ’26—accompanied by Tiyanu Akinjaiyeju ’25 on drums and Asante Kiio ’25 on piano—opened the assembly with a cover of the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me” before Chaplain Allison Read gave an opening prayer.

Anna Malaika Tubbs PhD was the day’s keynote speaker, appearing on stage in an informal question-and-answer discussion with Associate Director of Admission and Director of Inclusion Outreach Carolyn Chica. Dr. Tubbs is the author of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, a New York Times’ Bestseller published in February 2021 in which she examines the lives of these three extraordinary women and the impact they had on their sons and, in turn, history.

The free-flowing conversation covered Dr. Tubbs’ inspiration for writing the book, her background and creative process, and how motherhood passed along a history of protest and fighting for justice from one generation to another. Throughout, Dr. Tubbs urged the student body to understand the methods behind oppression, so that they could be better prepared to mobilize for change when necessary.

“We need to be better aware of what’s going on,” she said, “so we can transfer our energy from shock and surprise to preparing and learning.”

And, while many like to point to strong, pioneering women like Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin—and Black women in general—as the backbone of the Civil Rights movement and Black culture as a whole, Dr. Tubbs stressed that these and other women deserved more credit than just a supporting role.

“They’re not the women behind the men,” she said. “They’re the women before the men.”

In closing, she challenged the students to pay attention to when their voices are attacked or silenced because, it’s during those times, that the power structure is most worried about them.

“Young people are the ones who are going to change our nation,” said Dr. Tubbs. “Keep doing what you all are doing, and pay attention to why your voices are under attack.” 

The Essence step team closed out the keynote portion of the day’s event, after which Dr. Tubbs signed copies of her book in the CPAC lobby.

Following lunch, students gathered by form for workshops in the Multipurpose Room, while faculty met for their own workshop in Hundred House. Throughout the day, this year’s Mudge Fellow, New Haven–based artist Mitchell Rembert, held a drop-in workshop in the Dining Hall lobby where students, faculty, and staff could create their own art in his medium of choice, leather.

Also through the afternoon, members of Groton Community Engagement volunteered at the African Community Center of Lowell, providing logistical support for the center’s annual MLK celebration.