Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)
The Black Angels by Maria Smilios
Hardcover $30.00
Sep 19, 2023 | ISBN 9780593544921

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (2) +
  • Sep 19, 2023 | ISBN 9780593544921

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Sep 19, 2023 | ISBN 9780593544938

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Listen to a sample from The Black Angels

Product Details


One of St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s 40 New Books for Fall Reading

“Vivid…[An] indelible portrait of an era when this untreatable bane killed one American every 11 minutes…[The nurses’] tenacity in the face of harsh working conditions and pervasive racism is humbling and inspiring…Excellent…[A] book that deserves reading and remembering in the pandemic age.” —The New York Times Book Review

“I’ve never read anything like The Black Angels, a tale of medical horror and heroism that recalls The Hot Zone as much as it does Hidden Figures. Smilios plunges the reader into the festering tuberculosis wards of 1930s New York, where death was airborne, inevitable—until a few brave nurses changed the lives of millions. This is extraordinary nonfiction.” —Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies

“A gripping book.” —The New York Times

“Immensely rewarding…[A] confluence of histories, encompassing public health, urban development, race, class, and social upheaval…[Smilios] blends all of the threads she followed into a big blistering narrative that takes readers into the lives of an exceptional group of individuals whose personal stories are as compelling as the disease they confronted was deadly. Informative, enthralling, and sometimes appalling, this is American history at its best.” —Booklist, starred review

“[An] evocative debut…Smilios’s narrative is sympathetically told in rich […] prose…Historical fiction aficionados will want to take a look.” —Publishers Weekly

“Edna, Missouria, and Virginia answered a call for nurses and changed the world. These courageous women who desegregated hospitals and tamed an airborne killer at last receive necessary, poignant recognition in Maria Smilios’ exquisitely rendered history.” —Sarah Rose, author of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

“A breathless but illuminating conquest-of-disease narrative…Vivid accounts of medical and racial progress with a mostly happy ending.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinary…Written with an astute grasp of the medical facts surrounding TB, [the] book eloquently highlights the humanity of the nurses who were recruited from the segregated South to provide care for people with TB in the hospital when nobody else would…Smilios is a rare combination of rigorous scientist and an exquisite writer…[A] must-read for anyone in the TB field but also for those who wish to gain a better understanding of the factors that drive current health disparities.” —The Lancet

The Black Angels are our guides in the story of the battle to defeat tuberculosis, a cadre of women who left the Jim Crow South and fought for their own equality in New York while nursing the great city’s incurable castoffs. Decades of work with dying patients made the Black Angels into invaluable experts when test after desperate test came in the search for a cure. In richly written, capacious prose, Maria Smilios weaves medical history with personal stories of kindness and redemption in a science thriller told on a human scale.” —Judy Melinek, M.D., and T. J. Mitchell, authors of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

“With a detective’s tenacity, Maria Smilios pays tribute to the Black Angels, that compassionate cadre of nurses whose meticulous record keeping helped buttress the clinical trials that led to a pivotal breakthrough in the treatment of tuberculosis. She weaves their personal journeys with their professional devotion to the indigent, incurable patients whose care became their cause even as they were unwelcome in most American hospitals because of their race.” —A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates about Maria Smilios
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking “SIGN UP”, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy. You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top