Over the July 4 holiday in 1944, Dorothy still doesn’t know whether she will be made a permanent employee at Langley or whether she will be let go when her contract is up, but she decides to sign a lease on a two-bedroom apartment in Newport News. She plans to move her children in, suggesting that she will leave Farmville for good and move to Newport News.
Newsome Park, Dorothy’s new neighborhood, has been built as temporary housing for workers during the war, but black families are drawn there from all over. The Newsome Park Community Center is directed by a man named Eric Epps, an activist who was fired from his teaching job for fighting for equal pay. The Newsome Park shopping center boasts a grocery store, a drugstore, a barbershop, a beauty shop, a beer joint, a cleaners, and a TV repair shop. It’s Dorothy’s first apartment that is hers alone since she was a young teacher. Meanwhile, her husband, Howard, stays behind in Farmville. They begin to grow apart.
Langley’s forward progress gives rise to a thriving black community nearby. This community will be as important as Langley itself when it comes to giving Dorothy and her family some semblance of normalcy. However, in embracing her new life, Dorothy also has to leave her husband and strike out on her own—just one of the many sacrifices she’ll have to make to move ahead and ensure a future for her family.
By 1945, half the people in southeastern Virginia work for the government. Much of the state’s woodland area has been paved over to make room for military bases and their accoutrements. V-J Day, on August 15, 1945, marks the end of long years of fighting, and people across Virginia celebrate the end of the war long into the night. After that comes an uncertain period. Overnight, many women are laid off.
The war has drastically changed the area around Langley, but as the fighting ends, the flourishing defense economy it helped give rise to threatens to disappear. This shift threatens women in particular, as they are seen as more expendable than men. Opportunities granted because of the war can easily be taken away.
Some employers who hired black workers during the war return to discriminatory hiring practices after it ends. Racist lawmakers like Virginia’s Democratic senator, Harry Byrd, liken integration in the workplace to Communism—a strong accusation, as Russia looms on the horizon as a new threat. Byrd thinks of segregation as sacred, and he does everything he can to keep the poor of all races divided against one another.
The status of the black worker is always precarious, but in the wake of the end of the war, it becomes even more so. Even the small progress African-Americans in the workforce have made suddenly seems as if it’s going to disappear thanks to the machinations of cruel politicians and racist employers.
Dorothy commits to her new lease without knowing the status of her employment at Langley. Newsome Park is also under siege, as white neighbors attempt to dismantle the black community’s property. Dorothy tries to navigate the transitional period, sending her children to school nearby and supporting the local community as much as she can. She goes to see Marian Anderson sing with her friend Miriam Mann.
Just as Dorothy finds out she may lose her job, she learns she may lose her friends and community at Newsome Park as well. She seeks solace in the work of great black artists, just as she once looked for inspiration to the black computers who first integrated Langley.