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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hidden No More

Felicity and I went to see Hidden Figures yesterday morning and OH MY FUCKING GOD it was TREMENDOUS!!! If you haven’t seen it yet, GO!

Look mes amies, this is a flick without a single space ship (well, no Star Trek-y, Star Wars-ish ones anyway), no aliens, werewolves, superpowered humans and it wasn’t all post-apocalyptic-y either. And yet, and yet I loved it. Huh.
The True Story of "Hidden Figures," the Forgotten Women Who Helped Win the Space Race: A new book and movie document the accomplishments of NASA’s black “human computers” whose work was at the heart of the country’s greatest battles.
The movie, from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly illuminates the lives and accomplishments of three real life black women who worked as “computers” (female high level number crunchers) for The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) – now NASA. They were there working, fighting to get ahead and be treated as equals during the late ‘50s (though the movie is set in ’61).

This was before Rosa Parks said, effectively, “nope, I’m not giving up my seat,“ The four black college students hadn’t yet sat down at that Woolworth’s lunch counter. Despite '54's Brown v. Board of Education decision, segregation still existed. The West Computers worked in a separate building, on the far west side of the NACA campus, from their white counterparts.
In the book, Shetterly highlights one particular incident involving an offensive sign in the dining room bearing the designation: Colored Computers.

One particularly brazen computer, Miriam Mann, took responding to the affront on as a her own personal vendetta. She plucked the sign from the table, tucking it away in her purse. When the sign returned, she removed it again. “That was incredible courage,” says Shetterly. “This was still a time when people are lynched, when you could be pulled off the bus for sitting in the wrong seat. [There were] very, very high stakes.”

But eventually Mann won. The sign disappeared. (source)
Hard enough being a woman in this country but being a black woman? Being a black woman in the '50s and '60s trying to thrive in a white, mostly male work environment? Oh man! Seriously strong and hardcore awesome!

One of the women, Katherine Johnson,:
was responsible for calculating the trajectory for the 1961 space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. In 1962, NASA moved to digital computers and used them for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth. However, Glenn refused to fly unless Johnson verified the computer’s calculations. (source)
Hidden Figures is about three brilliant, courageous, resourceful women who, against all odds, became significant members of Team Space. Mary Jackson, 2015 National Medal of Freedom winner Katherine Goble Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan — mathematicians, engineers, computer whizzes, wives. mothers, heroes.

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