Praise for The Black Angels

"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. . . this is American history at its best." Booklist (starred review)

“Smilios is a rare combination of rigorous scientist and an exquisite writer. . . the reader cannot stop delving into the stories of the women who were the driving force behind saving and soothing millions of lives.”—The Lancet

"Smilios paints an indelible portrait of an era when this untreatable bane killed one American every 11 minutes. Others have covered this territory before. But this account breaks new ground by recovering the forgotten heroics of a corps of Black women who stepped into a void that no one else would fill…an excellent book…that deserves reading and remembering in the pandemic age”— New York Times Book Review

“[A] remarkable debut. . . Meticulous research paired with exceptional narration makes this timely account of a public health emergency, labor shortage, and enduring discrimination an essential addition to all nonfiction collections.” --Library Journal

"An incredible story . . . the writing is phenomenal" --John Green, award winning author The Fault in our Stars

“A gripping book.” — The New York Times

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

“That institutional racism permeated American society is a historical truism, but by focusing on the experiences of Edna Sutton, the daughter of an enslaved man raised in a tar-paper shack, Smilios sharpens that abstract knowledge into a painful awareness of how savagely discrimination penetrated daily life"History Extra BBC History Magazine

Smilios focuses on a single but shameful episode in US history. . . [and] evocatively relates the stories of black nurses recruited to care for white sufferers from tuberculosis during the Great Depression." --History Today

"The story of The Black Angels is simultaneously heartbreaking, inspiring, infuriating, and uplifting" --Dr. Erin Welsh, host of the popular This Podcast Will Kill You

" important treasure ...The Black Angels ... gives us the choice to be better now, and in the future." Joshunda Sanders, award winning author, Women of the Post

"I am blown away by this book ... this is a story I did not know ... these women risked their own lives. It is a fabulous story - everything that I love, it's untold history, it's looking at the world from a different perspective. This is a story that needs telling and it IS being told. It's about women whose names have been forgotten - until now Sandi Toksvig, BBC Two Between the Covers

"I’ve come to understand racism as akin to an unforgiving wasting disease because of Smilios’s book, which shows heroism and goodness prevailing anyway, a testament to the integrity and commitment of Sea View’s Black nurses"--American Journal of Nursing

"Smilios has done a terrific job of rescuing largely forgotten historical figures and correcting incomplete and at times misleading historical accounts...that these were Black nurses who worked under terrible conditions with jobs that white nurses were able to decline should now be central to the history of tuberculosis." — Barron Lerner, NursingClio

“A breathless . . . illuminating conquest-of-disease narrative . . . readers will gnash their teeth at what follows” –Kirkus

"Knowing what we know about pandemics . . . makes “The Black Angels” feel closer to home, and it makes the personal and medical sacrifices of Edna Sutton, Missouria Meadows-Walker, and Virginia Allen feel larger." --Terri Schlichenmeyer, Washington Informer

"It’s a fantastic, meticulously researched, riveting read!"– Carole Diane Mitnick, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

"[A]n engrossing tale of public health, medical progress, and the unsung role of Black women in both." -- Working Nurse

"A must read." --New York Nurse

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

An American Scientist Fall Stem Read of 2023

One of Toronto Life's "Books to Read this Fall


“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


“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


“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


“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


Notable Mentions

BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick (Sandi Toksvig)

Booklist & American Library Association Editor's Choice 2023

History Today pick for Best Book of 2023

Strong Words (London) Best Book of 2023

Booklist Top Ten Health & Wellness Books  2024

“One of the most anticipated book releases for September”—Youtube book reviewer abookolive

“Popular September Upcoming Releases”—Booklist Queen

The Black Angels added to an “impressive list of . . . new amazing books on global health"





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Penguin Random House Higher Education

The Black Angels was chosen as part of a curated History list from Penguin Random House's 250 imprints to "foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to help create stories and communicate ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire."