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Hidden Figures, the untold story of three African American Women

Jessica Ngbor | 1/16/2017, 9:07 a.m.
Hidden Figures is a drama that reveals an important part of American history as it focuses on the historic achievements ...
Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine G. Johnson and Mary Jackson meet John Glenn, the man they helped send into orbit around the earth. Hopper Stone

The Dallas Examiner

Hidden Figures is a drama that reveals an important part of American history as it focuses on the historic achievements of three African American women – scientist Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji Henson), engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and mathematician Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). Throughout the movie, the woman stand together to fight racial and gender barriers at NASA as they became a vital part of the team that launched astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit around the earth on Feb. 20, 1962 – the first American to do so.

Directed by Theodore Melfi, the movie is a true story based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

The film begins with Johnson as a young girl in West Virginia, where she was born. From a young age, she is exceptionally good at solving math equations and earns a scholarship to continue her education.

The movie fast-forwards to Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan on their way to NASA when their car breaks down in middle of the road. A White police officer stops and is surprised to hear that NASA hired women – African American women at that. When the officer helps the women continue on their way, Jackson calls it a “God-ordained miracle.”

As the narrative continues, each woman must face and struggle to overcome the adversities of racial and gender bias. At NASA, the trio are placed with a group of women and referred to as human computers.

Johnson is temporarily promoted to the Space Task Group, where she works with an all-White male team to calculate and predict Glenn’s landing. The racial tension is high as she enters the room, most noticeably when she walks to get a cup of coffee and all of her colleagues just stare at her. Her boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) is too focused on beating Russia in the race to space to notice the racial tension on his team.

Jackson aspires to become an engineer at NASA. After learning about an open position in the engineer-training program, she struggles with the barriers of being a Black woman. Furthermore, she must have certain courses in order to be eligible for the job. However, the courses are only available at a school that is not yet desegregated, and she must petition a judge to allow her to take the mandatory courses.

Vaughan has her own obstacles as she fights for a supervisory position – a job she is already doing, but does not get the acknowledgment or compensation. After learning about the new equipment IBM has brought to NASA, she decides to use her computer science skills in an attempt to get ahead.

A defining moment in the film comes when Johnson reaches her breaking point and decides she can no longer be silent about the racial and gender hurdles the women endure everyday.

The film takes place when America was still segregated, and she has to trek miles to go to the “Colored” women’s bathroom in heels – dashing through the parking lot and taking her work with her. After Harrison finally notices that Johnson would be gone for a while during her breaks, she explodes with a description of all the hardships she’s had to face: her colleagues not giving her certain information pertinent to her job, the coffee and the bathroom trek. In an effort to break the racial divide, he knocks down the “Colored Women’s Bathroom” sign and declares that everyone pees the same color at NASA.

Harrison may not have vocalized it, but when he realizes Johnson’s ability to calculate essential math equations, he becomes more invested in her success during their mission.

In a rating of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), this movie gets a 5. It’s perfect for any age group. I believe it is vital that young children see this movie. It focuses on a very significant time in American history and a story not told in public school. It focuses on the STEM subjects and inspires young girls to achieve anything to which they set their mind.