Virago has acquired one of the first titles publishing under Oprah Winfrey’s new book imprint at Flatiron Books in the US: The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis by New Yorker Maria Smilios.
The book, which is being published in the US as "An Oprah Book" (the name of the new imprint), will be published in the UK by Virago in 2018 following the deal struck by publisher Lennie Goodings for UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) rights from Anna Carmichael at Abner Stein on behalf of Peter Steinberg at Foundry Literary + Media.
Winfrey said The Black Angels is "a story that hasn’t been told and I felt it needed to be shared". It tells the true story of 300 black nurses who helped prevent a public health crisis in New York. In 1929, when white nurses staged a walk out at Staten Island's 2000-bed TB sanatorium, health officials made the decision to sanction a national call for "colored nurses". Lured by the promise of good pay, education, housing and the opportunity to work in a hospital free of quotas and segregated wards, "Black Angels" from all over the country boarded trains and buses to enter wards. Virago promised the book tells a "triumphant story", bringing together medicine, politics, racial strife, women’s rights and cutting-edge science, which it says has been "almost completely ignored" up until now.
Smilios' research has included working with one of the 'Black Angels', Virginia Allen, 84, as well as ex-patients the Angels cared for.
Goodings said: "I was deeply moved by this important 'hidden from history' story. I think it will be a very exciting, significant publication and I am delighted to share an Oprah Book title with Flatiron."
Winfrey's new imprint with Flatiron, a division of Macmillan, was first announced in 2015. The imprint represents a line of non-fiction works that are personally selected by Winfrey herself. The imprint's first release was Winfrey’s Food, Health and Happiness cookbook, which Pan Macmillan published simulataneously with Flatiron on Tuesday (3rd January).