Hidden Figures ,a recently released film, is the true story of three brilliant African-American women working at NASA. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson were three mathematicians and engineers from the West Computer Group that helped launch John Glenn into orbit. These three women were often hidden from their colleagues and the public. Yet, they revealed the “hidden” numbers and equations that led to the successful launch of the Mercury 7 Friendship Capsule.
Hidden Figures is a powerful film that captures the story of the space race in the 1960’s. The themes are still relevant and timely. Political, economic and social divisions are boldly addressed in this film. There are history, race relations, gender issues, and math lessons for all audience members. The film invites us to wrestle with multiple questions. Three questions stood out for me.
- Who are the Hidden Figures in my community? Who are the women and men in my community that are doing great things that I don’t even know about? How can I support them? What steps can I take to help them openly achieve their goals?
- Who are the people in my community that are in the role of being the “first” to try something? Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson were some of the first African American women serving as engineers and mathematicians for NASA. They bravely took the steps to be the “First”. Who are the “firsts” in my community? I know there are many first generation students going to college in California. How can I support them? Who are the other firsts?
- What issues remain hidden in my community that need to be addressed? In the film issues of racism, sexism, oppression, and disrespect are revealed. It is a story of strong women willing to take one step at a time for equity and justice. What steps can be taken to address issues of injustice in my community? How can I leverage my talents to support this change?
It’s not often that you walk away from a film with a deep stirring to address complex questions. If you’ve read the book or seen the film, what questions arise for you?
Who are the hidden figures in your community?