A Tale That Can’t Be Told Too Often

Hidden Figures
The American Dream and the Untold Story
of the Black Women Mathematicians
Who Helped Win the Space Race
William Morrow and Company

 

Paperback – 576 pages – 978-0-06-246644-0
Paperback – 368 pages
Downloadable Audio – 978-0-06-247207-6
MP3 CD – 978-1-4417-0970-7
Ebook – 368 pages – 978-0-06-236361-9

Even if you closely watched former President Barack Obama’s actions, you might not have noticed the administration’s less controversial deeds such as the awards of the Presidential Medalhidden_figures of Freedom. As of this summer, more and more Americans have discovered that among the many great achievers the White House honored was a representative of a corps of truly unsung heroes. Mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, long retired and living in Hampton, Virginia, is one of a hardly acknowledged crew of black women responsible for NASA’s (the then-National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) early success.

Those who know black life in this country during Segregation will attest that the story is nearly incredible. Yet, without Human Computer Project head Margot Lee Shetterly’s account of their experiences in the above cited book the accomplishments and struggles might have been overlooked. That too should be noted for those who flocked to movie theaters during  December 2016 to check out director Theodore Melfi’s  at-points-lighthearted drama, Hidden Figures.

The movie unearths and gives a nod to Johnson and mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Hoover who broke down the walls against color and gender at the then-Langley, Virginia space launch headquarters. As a review in Publisher’s Weekly promised, the text probes “relationships among blackness, womanhood, and 20th-century American technological development,” to create a work that is “crucial to understanding subsequent movements for civil rights.”

More than anything the film and book serve as a reminder of African Americans’ perseverance and adaptability as tools for survival.Those are traits many in U.S. society have cast aside, and about which many born after 1965 are unaware. The story of Johnson and the others cannot be told to often, and their strengths might need revival.

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Published by

VGwrites

I am a storyteller, author, editor, blogger, and retired university professor of Creative Writing. Now in Central Florida, I still teach every now and then, but write most of the time. Most recently, I poetry was featured in Mo Joe The Anthology. My last book, 10 Stories Down, a poetry collection published in September 2011, is inspired by several long-term stays in Beijing. Life and Other Things I Know: Poems, Essays and Short Stories (Elephant Eye Press, 1999), was the first. Throughout the years, the list expanded to include: African American Children's Stories: A Treasury of Tradition and Pride, Grandma Loves You: My First Treasury, African American Stories: My First Treasury, Like A Dry Land: A Soul's Journey through the Middle East and contributions to Take Two, They're Small, an anthology of poems, memoir, essay and fiction on food. My poetry, fiction and essays have also appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Washington Living, Upstate New Yorker, The Southern Quarterly, Reporter Magazine, Drylongso, Fyah, MentalSatin, Pinnacle Hill Review, Invisible Universe, Bridges, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, New Verse News, and UpandComing Magazine.

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