Hidden Figures tells the phenomenal untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson; the three genius African-American women who worked at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the 1950s-1960. They worked amongst females in the “West area computing unit”, which served as an all-black group of female mathematicians who were required to use separate dining and bathroom facilities.
Starting as “human computers” they made calculations and contributions that helped launch the manned spaceflight program.
The movie starts as the ladies are working in their usual assigned jobs otherwise known as “colored computers” when Johnson and Jackson are reassigned at the request of their white counter parts.
Mary Jackson, portrayed by Janelle Monae, accepted the assignment assisting Senior Aeronautical Research Engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki (renamed Karl Zielinski in the movie). He encouraged her to pursue a degree in engineering, which required her to take after-work graduate courses. After her mandated court hearing, Jackson was granted permission to take classes offered in a night program by the University of Virginia that was held at the segregated Hampton High School.
Katherine Gobal-Johnson, portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, was a mathematician who was reassigned to the guidance and control division of Langley’s Flight Research Division staffed by white male engineers.
Taraji’s character faced the hardships of dealing with segregation within the workspace as shown with the coffee and bathroom incident in the movie.
Dorothy Vaughn played by Octavia Spencer. She performed the same duties as supervisors but because she was colored, therefore she was denied the proper salary and title by fictional character Vivian Mitchell. Although Vivian’s character is not real, her and Paul Stafford (Johnson’s antagonist played by Jim Parsons) were created to represent certain racist and sexist attitudes that exist during the 1950s.
In 1958, Mary Jackson went on to become NASA’s first black female engineer. Dorothy Jackson became NASA’s first black supervisor in 1949. Katherine calculated the trajectories for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.
The movie shows the other challenges of the Civil Rights era such as segregated libraries, schools and facilities which these three women face everyday.
Despite these trying times they were able to overcome and take their place in history by helping the United States send astronaut, John Glenn, into space and orbit the earth three times.
The movie Hidden Figures is full of positive messages and very encouraging to African American women going into the STEM field.
Hidden Figures tells the story of one of Americas most celebrated moments but also the overlooked great story of the three black women who helped achieve it.