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The #1 New York Times bestseller
The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.
Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
In this outstanding cultural biography, the author of the New York Times bestseller A Slave in the White House chronicles a critical yet overlooked chapter in American history: the inspiring rise and calculated fall of the black elite, from Emancipation through Reconstruction to the Jim Crow Era—embodied in the experiences of an influential figure of the time, academic, entrepreneur, and political activist and black history pioneer Daniel Murray.
In the wake of the Civil War, Daniel Murray, born free and educated in Baltimore, was in the vanguard of Washington, D.C.’s black upper class. Appointed Assistant Librarian at the Library of Congress—at a time when government appointments were the most prestigious positions available for blacks—Murray became wealthy through his business as a construction contractor and married a college-educated socialite. The Murrays’ social circles included some of the first African-American U.S. Senators and Congressmen, and their children went to the best colleges—Harvard and Cornell.
Though Murray and other black elite of his time were primed to assimilate into the cultural fabric as Americans first and people of color second, their prospects were crushed by Jim Crow segregation and the capitulation to white supremacist groups by the government, which turned a blind eye to their unlawful—often murderous—acts. Elizabeth Dowling Taylor traces the rise, fall, and disillusionment of upper-class African Americans, revealing that they were a representation not of hypothetical achievement but what could be realized by African Americans through education and equal opportunities.
As she makes clear, these well-educated and wealthy elite were living proof that African Americans did not lack ability to fully participate in the social contract as white supremacists claimed, making their subsequent fall when Reconstruction was prematurely abandoned all the more tragic. Illuminating and powerful, her magnificent work brings to life a dark chapter of American history that too many Americans have yet to recognize.
The Washington Post’s Books to Read in 2017The New York Times Book Review Editors' ChoiceUSA Today, “New and Noteworthy”Read it Forward, Favorite Reads of January 2017A Parade Magazine Pick
"This book is distinctly Coretta's story . . . particularly absorbing. . . generous, in a manner that is unfashionable in our culture."―New York Times Book Review
“Eloquent . . . inspirational"―USA Today
The life story of Coretta Scott King―wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), and singular twentieth-century American civil and human rights activist―as told fully for the first time, toward the end of her life, to Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds.
Born in 1927 to daringly enterprising parents in the Deep South, Coretta Scott had always felt called to a special purpose. While enrolled as one of the first black scholarship students recruited to Antioch College, she became politically and socially active and committed to the peace movement. As a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music, determined to pursue her own career as a concert singer, she met Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister insistent that his wife stay home with the children. But in love and devoted to shared Christian beliefs as well as shared racial and economic justice goals, she married Dr. King, and events promptly thrust her into a maelstrom of history throughout which she was a strategic partner, a standard bearer, and so much more.
As a widow and single mother of four, she worked tirelessly to found and develop The King Center as a citadel for world peace, lobbied for fifteen years for the US national holiday in honor of her husband, championed for women's, workers’ and gay rights and was a powerful international voice for nonviolence, freedom and human dignity.
Coretta’s is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an extraordinary black woman in twentieth-century America, a brave leader who, in the face of terrorism and violent hatred, stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful every day of her life.