‘Hidden Figures’: Inspires People With The Untold Story, How Black Women Were Behind America’s First Space Launch
Everyone knows the story of the American “Space Race” with Russia in the 1960’s. We know the names of the astronauts who flew the space shuttles and the men in the control room on the day John Glenn soared his way around the earth successfully for the first time. What we didn’t know, there were three black women behind the scenes who trail-blazed their way to the top at NASA and ultimately, made the flights into space possible.
Hidden Figures, released this past Christmas Day 2016, highlights the three brilliant women who changed the world and never received the credit they so rightfully deserved. Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) began their careers at NASA as “computers,” who essentially worked as human calculators for the space program. They worked every day in a segregated room full of other intelligent black women until Katherine Goble was called up and changed the course of history.
Seeing this movie was an incredible and inspirational treat that had the audience applauding at the end. Seeing these incredible actresses take on the roles of some of the most intelligent people in our country’s history felt like an honor.
Katherine Goble out-calculated the men in the flight research team and cleared the way for America’s first successful trek into space. However, it isn’t the fact that Goble, Vaughan, and Jackson were smarter than their male counterparts that makes this movie so inspiring. It is the fact that these three black women, in a time when racism and segregation were at an all-time high, stood up for themselves in a white male dominated world and excelled. They took huge steps in the civil rights movements for both females and African-Americans. They worked hard and fought for every opportunity they had. They knew their worth and never compromised themselves based on the way others treated and viewed them.
Taraji P. Henson did an incredible job in the role of Katherine Goble. At Goble’s breaking point in the story, Henson flawlessly depicted the frustration, anger, and pain Goble experienced in having to run the half mile to the only negro restroom at NASA multiple times per day. At the height of her frustration, Henson delivered a powerful speech to her boss, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) who had criticized her for taking so long in the restroom, highlighting the fact that she was forced to live on nothing but “coffee from a pot that none of [the other employees] want to touch.” Though this moment was truly heartbreaking to watch, it set the stage for Katherine Goble to break through the gender and race barriers at NASA and rise to the top despite the differences she had with her co-workers.
In a final demonstration of just how important Goble was, we see a nervous John Glenn before his first launch into space who refuses to take flight until she checked the numbers on the computer’s calculations to ensure he would have a safe flight and return home in one piece.
Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson continued to work at NASA until their retirement. In 2015, Barack Obama awarded Katherine Goble (who became Katherine Johnson) the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her uncredited work in the space program at NASA.
Hidden Figures was nominated for two Golden Globes, two Screen Actor’s Guild awards, and multiple NAACP image awards. Based on the true story of three brilliant mathematicians, this movie is a must-see. Goble, Vaughan, and Jackson were smart, strong, courageous women who so incredibly balanced families, their careers, prejudice, and hate as they worked tirelessly to launch a man into space.