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Hidden Figures Book and Movie

on May 19, 2017

HiddenFigures Book

“Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly is the book behind the movie.

(I did read the adult version of the book, but it had this picture on it, instead of the movie picture, so I used this cover pic since it showed the real women not actors.)

Did you see the movie “Hidden Figures”?  I did, and it was great!  I enjoyed learning about the history behind the space race.  The situations of the lady “computers” were sometimes funny and sometimes gut-wrenching.  If you didn’t see it, I recommend it!  It was an exciting time in our American history.

After seeing the movie, I knew there must be a lot more to the story, so I decided to read the book.  I got on a wait list at my local library.  I was 48th on the list! It was very popular.  I finally got it last week, and finished reading it pretty quickly, since I wanted to review it for you.  I was right; there is a huge amount of information not included in the movie.  That said, the book may have delved into all the details more than necessary.  It is still a very interesting book.

It is a biography of 4 African American ladies in the west computing section of NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), which later became NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration).  The book and the movie tell the true history of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden.

I am glad I saw the movie first, because it gave me a better idea of what the book was about.  It is a complicated history, because it involves so many people, several towns, many schools, and the politics of the time.  If you enjoy learning about history, then the book is definitely worth reading!

The movie made NASA the main reason for having all these women mathematicians, but really it was airplanes and WWII. It was NACA that hired the women.  Because of the war, there simply was not enough qualified men to fill the jobs. The government wanted many more airplanes and wanted them to fly faster.  So Black women started working at Langley Aeronautical Lab in Hampton, Virginia, in 1942.  The space race didn’t start until 1958, and boomed in the 1960s.

The movie also didn’t explain the beginnings that made it possible for NACA to hire so many mathematicians, engineers and physicists.  Many black families wanted their children to have a better life than they had.  They believed that education would get them there.  This was very shrewd planning.  As a result there were many black men and women studying and teaching math and science.  These were good jobs and they enjoyed teaching; however, they were educated and smart enough to work as engineers, mathematicians, researchers and physicists.  Because they were black, they had been overlooked for the better jobs before, but when Langley needed to hire hundreds more employees that had the education of engineers, mathematicians and physicists, they found them by looking at high school teachers and new college graduates at Black schools.

Many African Americans were hired at Langley, and they were accepted, but some segregation was still apparent, as with the colored bathrooms and colored lunch table.  The riveting scene when Kevin Costner knocks down the colored bathroom sign with a sledge-hammer, does not happen in the book.  But over time, many of these types of prejudices did gradually stop, at least at Langley.

I want to end my review by giving kudos to one of the ladies in the book.  Her name is Katherine Johnson, the most famous of the group.  In 2015 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama!  This is our country’s highest civilian award, the same award given to Astronaut John Glenn.  Ladies of Langley, we owe you a debt of gratitude for your service to this country!

>View HERE the 1 minute video of the presentation!

>Click HERE to buy the book.

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2 responses to “Hidden Figures Book and Movie

  1. authoraileenstewart says:

    Looks interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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