Who knew until now that there were brilliant African American women who defied prejudice and the segregationist policies of 1950’s and early 1960’s America, to play pivotal roles in helping the country win the space race!
Get ready to be inspired by Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), the central real-life characters in the completely engrossing new film, Hidden Figures.
All three grew up in the segregated south, where they went to school for ‘coloreds’ only, were forbidden to access the superior whites-only public libraries, were barred from most schools and colleges for high education, and yet, they still grew up to be gifted mathematicians. All three were thrilled to land jobs at NASA’s headquarters in Hampton, VA, as human ‘computers.’ This was a time before ‘machine’ computers, so these women did data entry and mathematical calculations, which the aeronautical engineers used to calculate potential orbits for space flights.
But, they did it with no recognition, low pay, only very rare opportunities for promotion and with relentless invisibility. To their white supervisors, they virtually didn’t exist. The group of about 20 ‘colored’ female computers overseen by the ambitious Dorothy Vaughan, toiled away in a ‘colored’ room in the basement of an office far from the exciting center of action in the NASA center.
By chance, Katherine, renowned among the women for her mathematical skills, is plucked to help the exasperated Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) who is in charge of the chief engineers who are desperately trying to figure out how to send a man safely into space and then back. The Russians have already done it and the Americans are racing to catch up.
It turns out that she is a genius, who will come up with the breakthrough formula, which will enable NASA to return an orbiting astronaut to earth. Nevertheless, she must fight against the relentless prejudice of her direct superior, an engineer, who doesn’t want to allow her to drink from the same coffee pot as the white workers, let alone, give her recognition for her breakthrough mathematical calculations.
Luckily, the top boss, Al Harrison is more concerned with the success of the mission than the accepted rules of segregated America. He flips out when he learns that Katherine has to run a quarter of a mile outside to go to the only colored women’s bathroom on the NASA campus.
You will cheer when he wields a pickaxe and effectively ends segregated bathrooms at NASA in a couple of swoops. “At NASA, we all pee the same color,” he announces.
Octavia Spencer’s Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe’s Mary Jackson are equally heroic in their efforts to advance into NASA positions which would allow them to use their substantial brain power. Mary Jackson even makes history by going to court and against all odds convincing a skeptical judge to order a local segregated college to admit her to night school so she could earn an engineering degree and become the first African American space engineer at NASA.
You will love to watch these women break barriers and succeed through hard work and talent. And a special shoutout to John Glenn, the first astronaut to orbit the earth, who was free of the pervasive prejudice of the time.
So, HollywoodLifers, I highly recommend Hidden Figures for both its gripping story and fascinating characters.
Will you check it out HollywoodLifers? Let me know!