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The movie's not out until January, but you can read now about the black female engineers and mathematicians who were the unseen contributors to the space program.
The #1 New York Times bestseller and the basis for the hit Academy Award-winning movie, now available in a beautifully designed, illustrated edition featuring more than two dozen never-before-seen photos.
Hidden Figures is the untold true story of the African-American female mathematicians, "colored computers," at NASA who provided the calculations that helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space, set against the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement.
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. Originally math teachers in the South’s segregated public schools, these gifted professionals answered Uncle Sam’s call during the labor shortages of World War II. With new jobs at the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, they finally had a shot at jobs that would push their skills to the limits.
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 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 as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in her book Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.