One of the most lauded films heading into the 2017 Oscar ceremony, is an unlikely candidate. Hidden Figures tells the true story of the three mathematicians who helped NASA take the lead in the Space Race. What’s even more remarkable, is that these three ladies weren’t even in on the job, they’d been funneled into a racially segregated division of a Langley think tank. Distinguished by their unparalleled skill and their unflinching bravery, these women carved new territory for America using only their ridiculous math skills. This is the true story of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, the real women behind Hidden Figures.
1. The Human Computers
In the 1960s, the work of getting man into space wasn’t done by processors, it was done by actual human beings who worked the incredibly complicated math formulas necessary to get what amounted to giant, flying rocks from Earth into space and back again. Academic institutions had been using women as computers since the late 19th century. It was in this position at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the precursor to NASA), that the three characters at the center of Hidden Figures’ tale were working when events kicked off.
2. The Job Of an African American Computer
Working out of Langley’s West Area Computers — the facility’s segregated campus — black computers were paid less and relegated to segregated dining halls and bathrooms. Though they performed the same work as their white counterparts, they weren’t considered for any kind of raise or promotion to other parts of the NACA.
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