hidden-figures-bannerStory by Zakiya Austin

On Christmas Day, the movie “Hidden Figures” premiered in theatres. The movie sheds light on the African American women that worked behind the scenes for the NASA Space Program in Virginia.

The story followed a character named Katherine Goble (Taraji P Henson), a calculator in the black only calculation wing. The women of the West Area were tasked with calculating the trajectory of the aircraft that was to carry the first man into space. Katherine was finally given her chance to prove herself when the Space Task Group, headed by Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner), is in need of someone proficient in mathematics that no one else is familiar with.

She was initially cast out by her coworkers for being black. She was not allowed to go to the bathrooms in her building, having to walk almost a mile back to the West Area Computers to use the colored bathrooms. She was not allowed to drink coffee from the same pot as her co-workers. She wasn’t allowed freedom of dress because women in the task group were expected to wear skirts to the knee, sweaters instead of blouses, and no jewelry aside from a small set of pearls. She wasn’t even allowed the clearance to view all material pertaining to the numbers she was asked to check over.

She was grossly underestimated by her peers, especially by head engineer Paul Stratford (Jim Parsons). By holding the redacted documents to the light, and working the figures on a chalkboard in front of everyone, she gets a chance to prove herself. After a confrontation with Mr. Harrison, she is granted clearance as she had uncovered a flaw in the calculations.

From there it was an uphill battle to get her rightfully owned position in the NASA Space Program and to help get a man into space.

Along the way, Katherine Goble met United States Army Officer Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali). The two fall in love and get married. Kathrine, being a widow, already had three daughters, who all work with Jim and surprise her with a proposal over dinner.

The movie also includes the stories of Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae.)

Dorothy Vaughan was an African American woman, doing the work of the supervisor for the West Area Computing Sector, but was not receiving the title or the pay of the position. After finding out that the IBM 7090, a calculating machine, would put her and her entire wing out of a job, she set out to learn and understand FORTRAN: the language of the machine. She then taught it to her counterparts in hopes that they would all be reassigned as technicians.

After finding out how to use the IBM 7090, which no one else knew how to use, she secured jobs for the West Area Computer employees and the position of supervisor for herself.

Mary Jackson was reassigned to the engineering lab where she spots and solves an issue with a loose heat shield on the shuttle that would encapsulate a man circling the earth. She was then encouraged by scientist Karl Zielinski (Aleksander Krupa) to pursue an engineering degree.

After filing a lawsuit and getting the permission to attend an all white high school for courses, she earns a degree in engineering and pursue career advancement at NASA.

Katherine went on to calculate trajectory for NASA’s space missions to follow, including Apollo 13, putting a man on the moon. Mary Johnson continued to make pathways for other African Americans at NASA. Dorothy Vaughan became the first black supervisor at NASA.

These “hidden figures” of history inspired a change in the world. This movie is significant because it sheds light on the African American struggle for equality as well as the beginnings of feminism within places we never thought it would be. It also gives these women that have been shaded from the spotlight they deserve because of the color of their skin.

Overall, “Hidden Figures” is worth the view. It is imperative that the message of “Hidden Figures” reaches every age, ethnicity, and gender identity. It is magnificently directed and produced and the historical content is intact and beautifully displayed. This film earns all five of the stars of its rating.

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