Tag Archives: black history

eBook Friday: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

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. Now 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.


Every Friday, we highlight a title from our collections at
 https://nckids.overdrive.com/, or http://chathamconc.oneclickdigital.com. Let us know what you think of these selections, and tell us about eBooks you’ve enjoyed – we may feature them here!


Black History Month Film Series Begins Feb. 7

Chatham Community Library is celebrating Black History Month with a four-part film series beginning on Wednesday, February 7 at 12:00 pm in the Holmes Meeting Room.




Films in the series include:

Day Date Film
Wednesday February 7 4 Little Girls (1997). Directed by Spike Lee, this film documents the “notorious racial terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement.” It won an Oscar in 1998 for Best Documentary.
Wednesday February 14 I Am Not Your Negro (2016). In this film, “writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.”  Directed by Raoul Peck, I Am Not Your Negro was an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary.
Wednesday February 21 What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015). Directed by Liz Garbus and Hal Tulchin. This film documents the life and legend of Nina Simone, “an American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist labeled the “High Priestess of Soul.” The film was an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary in 2016.
Monday February 26 13th (2016). This film offers “an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.” Directed by Ava DuVernay, it was an Oscar nominee in 2017 for Best Documentary.

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and in the Netherlands where it is known as Black Achievement Month. It began as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

These events are free and open to the public. Feel free to bring your lunch!

Resource of the Month: African American Heritage

African American HeritageIf the genealogy bug has caught you, Chatham County Public Libraries can help! In addition to offering access to Ancestry Library Edition in the library and to HeritageQuest from anywhere, the library offers access to African American Heritage in our branches and off site with a password.

This resource provides genealogical and historical records useful for exploring the lives of African American ancestors, a process complicated by the disruptions of slavery and the dearth of centrally-accessible records.  African American Heritage helps family history researchers by bringing together some of the scattered records and by offering expert guides through references and social networking possibilities.

Starting at the library’s home page, www.chathamlibraries.org, click on Online Resources, then the link for Genealogy, followed by the icon for African American Heritage.  Outside of the library, you’ll need a password which staff at the Reference Desk will be happy to share with you.

You’ll find census, Freedman’s Bank, and slave records; birth, marriage, death and North Carolina cohabitation records; church, military, court, and legal records; as well as genealogies and family histories.  In addition, you’ll have access to guides for locating resources in all fifty states, Canada, and the West Indies.

From the home page, you can search and browse the collections, search and browse how-to and reference books, and link to AfriGeneas (a partner site), where you can interact with a community of interested and experienced researchers. During your research sessions, it’s possible to track your search history and to save your discoveries to a notebook for later printing, emailing, and downloading.

Call 919-545-8086 for African American Heritage login information or to discuss this and other tools for genealogy research.  Happy searching!

Free eBook Friday: Twelve Years a Slave

Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup:

The son of a freed slave, Solomon Northup lived the first thirty years of his life as a free man in upstate New York. In the spring of 1841, he was offered a job: a short-term, lucrative engagement as a violinist in a traveling circus. It was a trap. In Washington, DC, Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years on plantations in Louisiana, enduring backbreaking labor, unimaginable violence, and inhumane treatment at the hands of cruel masters, until a kind stranger helped to win his release. His account of those years is a shocking, unforgettable portrait of America’s most insidious historical institution as told by a man who experienced it firsthand. Published shortly after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Northup’s memoir became a bestseller in 1853. With its eloquent depiction of life before and after bondage, Twelve Years a Slave was a unique and effective entry into the national debate over slavery. Rediscovered in the 1960s and now the inspiration for a major motion picture, Northup’s poignant narrative gives readers an invaluable glimpse into a shameful chapter of American history.

(Two other editions of this eBook are also available in our collection.)


Every Friday, we highlight an eBook from our collection at
.  Let us know what you think of these selections, and tell us about eBooks you’ve enjoyed – we may feature them here!

Book Review: Life and Times of an American Legend – Larry Tye

Satchel: the Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye

    This recommendation comes a little late for Black History Month, but it’s just in time for baseball season. If either subject is up your alley, this book is worth reading; if you happen to be interested in both, it’s a gold mine. Author Larry Tye spent years unraveling the mystery behind the life of one of his boyhood baseball icons with great success, getting the meat of his research from
interviews with Satchel’s friends and family, fellow players and managers, and descendants thereof. Still, Satchel Paige is a man to whom mystery clings like a sweaty baseball jersey on a hot Mobile afternoon, mostly because of the lack of solid statistics and press coverage for thousands of Negro League games in the 1920’s-40’s. Thankfully, plenty of testimony survives about this truly American character.
    Born the seventh of twelve children in a Mobile ghetto, Leroy Robert Page quickly rose from his obscure beginnings to become by his mid-twenties the most popular pitcher in then-segregated black professional baseball. Those who saw him perform in his heyday say he had an unparalleled fastball, to which he soon added an arsenal of curves, slowballs and breakers, all executed with pinpoint control. Anecdotes of Paige antics are plenty, like the one about him winning accuracy contests by knocking over matchboxes placed on homeplate, or telling his entire outfield to retire to the dugout as their services wouldn’t be necessary, and proceeding to strike out the opposing side. The ultimate showman on the mound, Paige sometimes sounds like the kind of towering figure who was more tall tales than substance, and Paige himself certainly did nothing to dispel his own myths. Tye did manage to get to the bottom of the one about Satchel’s age, forever a source of sportswriter conjecture, thereby substantiating Paige’s standing record for being the oldest pitcher ever to throw in a Major League game (he was 59). But could Paige actually, as he estimated, have pitched 5,000 complete games over his career, winning 2,000? There’s no way of telling for sure, but if you ask me, that’s part of his appeal.
    One irrefutable truth about Paige is that he used his tremendous talent to build his own legend, and in so doing defied Jim Crow America to live life on his own terms. In a sport full of eccentric characters, Satchel comes close to outshining everybody as a fast-driving, barnstorming, contract-jumping, wisdom-dispensing ace who is fondly remembered by players and fans on both sides of the race barrier. A fun summer read.