It’s common knowledge that John Glenn became the first American in space as part of Project Mercury in 1962 and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon as part of Apollo 11 in 1969, but most people have never given consideration to how they got there. Who developed the technology and ran the calculations that helped America win the space race against the Soviet Union?
In Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly pulls back the curtain to introduce us to some of the African American women at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (the agency which later became NASA) who were responsible for the math and science that helped fuel some of the United States’ boldest accomplishments. Women like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Christine Darden, to name just a few, attained jobs as mathematicians at NACA that were previously unavailable to African Americans. Their incredible math skills ultimately helped the United States achieve its goal of reaching the moon before the Soviet Union.
Exhaustively researched, Hidden Figures follows these amazing women through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race of the 1960’s. Because of Jim Crow laws, the skills of many African Americans were never used to their potential and many dreams went unrealized. These stories of the women of NACA/NASA who challenged the establishment, broke down barriers, and paved the way for future generations is truly inspiring.