The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America's greatest achievements in space.
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.
"By far the most enigmatic leading figure" of World War II. That's how the British military historian John Keegan described Franklin D. Roosevelt, who frequently left his contemporaries guessing, never more so than at the end of his life. Here, in a hugely insightful account, a prizewinning author and journalist untangles the narrative threads of Roosevelt's final months, showing how he juggled the strategic, political, and personal choices he faced as the war, his presidency, and his life raced in tandem to their climax. The story has been told piecemeal but never like this, with a close focus on Roosevelt himself and his hopes for a stable international order after the war, and how these led him into a prolonged courtship of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, involving secret, arduous journeys to Tehran and the Crimea. In between, as the war entered its final phase, came the thunderbolt of a dire medical diagnosis, raising urgent questions about the ability of the longest-serving president to stand for a fourth term at a time when he had little choice. Neither his family nor top figures in his administration were informed of his diagnosis, let alone the public or his closest ally, Winston Churchill. With D-Day looming, Roosevelt took a month off on a plantation in the south where he was examined daily by a navy cardiologist, then waited two more months before finally announcing, on the eve of his party's convention, that he'd be a candidate. A political grand master still, he manipulated the selection of a new running mate, with an eye to a possible succession, displaying some of his old vigor and wit in a winning campaign. With precision and compassion, Joseph Lelyveld examines the choices Roosevelt faced, shining new light on his state of mind, preoccupations, and motives, both as leader of the wartime alliance and in his personal life. Confronting his own mortality, Roosevelt operated in the belief that he had a duty to see the war through to the end, telling himself he could always resign if he found he couldn't carry on. Lelyveld delivers an incisive portrait of this deliberately inscrutable man, a consummate leader to the very last.
An irresistible journey of discovery, science, history, and myth making, told through the lives and afterlives of seven famous human ancestors.
Over the last century, the search for human ancestors has spanned four continents and resulted in the discovery of hundreds of fossils. While most of these discoveries live quietly in museum collections, there are a few that have become world-renowned celebrity personas--ambassadors of science that speak to public audiences. In Seven Skeletons , historian of science Lydia Pyne explores how seven such famous fossils of our ancestors have the social cachet they enjoy today. Drawing from archives, museums, and interviews, Pyne builds a cultural history for each celebrity fossil--from its discovery to its afterlife in museum exhibits to its legacy in popular culture. These seven include the three-foot tall "hobbit" from Flores, the Neanderthal of La Chapelle, the Taung Child, the Piltdown Man hoax, Peking Man, Australopithecus sediba , and Lucy--each embraced and celebrated by generations, and vivid examples of how discoveries of how our ancestors have been received, remembered, and immortalized. With wit and insight, Pyne brings to life each fossil, and how it is described, put on display, and shared among scientific communities and the broader public. This fascinating, endlessly entertaining book puts the impact of paleoanthropology into new context, a reminder of how our past as a species continues to affect, in astounding ways, our present culture and imagination.
The maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong. Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. The Kingdom of Speech is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech--not evolution--is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements. From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in The Kingdom of Speech.
We are witnessing a moment of unprecedented political engagement and social activism. Pundits once fretted about Americans' apathy, but in the last few years we've seen uprisings and protests across the country: the growth of the Tea Party, the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage, BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the grassroots networks supporting presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders. In Necessary Trouble, journalist Sarah Jaffe leads readers into the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans from Seattle to St. Louis to Atlanta become activists. As Jaffe shows, Americans, regardless of political alignment, are boldly challenging who wields power in this country. They are poised to permanently remake politics as we know it--and in many cases, they already have.
A beautifully written, breathtakingly honest, unsentimental, and profound memoir from one of the UK's most popular journalists.
On a hot, still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead's life changed forever. Her four-year-old son was paddling peacefully at the water's edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son's life--then drowned before her eyes. When Decca and Tony first met, a decade earlier, she was a renowned Guardian journalist profiling leading politicians of the day; he was a dreadlocked criminal with a history of drug dealing and violence. No one thought the romance would last, but it did--until the tide swept Tony away, plunging Decca into the dark chasm of random tragedy. Exploring race and redemption, privilege and prejudice, All at Sea is a remarkable story of love and loss, of how one couple changed each other's life, and of what a sudden death can do to the people who survive.
Douglas MacArthur was arguably the last American public figure to be worshipped unreservedly as a national hero, the last military figure to conjure up the romantic stirrings once evoked by George Armstrong Custer and Robert E. Lee. But he was also one of America's most divisive figures, a man whose entire career was steeped in controversy. Was he an avatar or an anachronism, a brilliant strategist or a vainglorious mountebank?
Drawing on a wealth of new sources, Arthur Herman delivers a powerhouse biography that peels back the layers of myth:both good and bad:and exposes the marrow of the man beneath. MacArthur's life spans the emergence of the United States Army as a global fighting force. Its history is to a great degree his story. The son of a Civil War hero, he led American troops in three monumental conflicts:World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Born four years after Little Big Horn, he died just as American forces began deploying in Vietnam. Herman's magisterial book spans the full arc of MacArthur's journey, from his elevation to major general at thirty-eight through his tenure as superintendent of West Point, field marshall of the Philippines, supreme ruler of postwar Japan, and beyond. More than any previous biographer, Herman shows how MacArthur's strategic vision helped shape several decades of U.S. foreign policy. Alone among his peers, he foresaw the shift away from Europe, becoming the prophet of America's destiny in the Pacific Rim. Here, too, is a vivid portrait of a man whose grandiose vision of his own destiny won him enemies as well as acolytes.
With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today's most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America "developed on pillage." Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, Known and Strange Things is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole's wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames.
Since its founding in 2011, The Atavist has garnered an unprecedented eight National Magazine Award nominations and was the first all-digital publication to win in feature writing. This collection presents the finest examples of a new kind of nonfiction storytelling as practiced by a young generation of longform experts. The collection includes Leslie Jamison's landmark portrait of a lonely whale named "52 Blue," Matthew Shaer's harrowing account of a shipwreck during Hurricane Sandy, and James Verini's prize-winning tale of romance and courage in Afghanistan.
The fascinating and original writing in Love and Ruin demonstrates why The Atavist has become the leader in publishing "remarkable . . . can't look away pieces of multimedia journalism" (New York Times).
National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin's 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.
In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin's 1962 "Letter to My Nephew," which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: "You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon." Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin's words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation's most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns. The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume. In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin's essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a "post-racial" society is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin's "fire next time" is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about. Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.