Katherine Johnson, a Black woman mathematician, was hired by NASA during the Jim Crow era to do math and research that would launch white men into space. However, her story was nearly forgotten.
Mary Gainer, a historic preservationist for NASA, stumbled upon a 1943 picture of around a thousand people standing in a huge NASA building.
What surprised Gainer were the numerous women in the photograph, which was shocking given the rampant amount of sexism during the time. Gainer tasked her intern, Sarah McLennan, to learn more about the women who were in the photograph.
Gainer did not know that a Black woman, Margot Lee Shetterly, was already collecting the stories of Black women during the Jim Crow-era who were hired by NASA to do the math and research that ultimately launched men into space. Shetterly’s father was a scientist who worked at Langley Research Center, and he was aware of the history of Black women at NASA.
“There are these women and I knew them, and my dad worked with them and they went to our church and their kids were in my school.”
– Margot Shetterly
Shetterly ended up writing a book called “Hidden Figures,” which chronicles the history of the Black women mathematicians at NASA.
Shetterly’s book has since turned into a movie, and the film has a star-studded cast that includes Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. The movie will open in theaters nation-wide this upcoming January.
Via Washington Post
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