Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

This will likely be my last post. Not my last book, obviously, but my last post. I suppose I’ve lost the drive to write and share online. It has turned more into a chore (one I am terrible at, but a chore nonetheless) rather than an enjoyable hobby. My online presence is quickly diminishing as I also deleted all social media apps from my phone a week ago. I thought it would be hard, but it is so freeing. I spend way less time on my phone and am more in the moment. Who really cares what I spent my weekend doing or how much fun I had on vacation? Well, my mom, but she’ll get the texts and calls anyways. She doesn’t need to wait for the social media post. I’m not sure if I sound apathetic or snobbish or bitter or cynical or a healthy combination of all four. It is not intentional, but kind of difficult to avoid when I’m a millennial preaching about deleting social media.

Regardless, I’m ever so slightly off the grid for now, but who knows if I will return in the future. The social media hiatus is for at least the rest of the month, we’ll see what happens come July.

Hidden Figures! I never saw the movie because I was sure I would read the book at some point. This proved very difficult when it was one of only a few good movie options on my recent flight. But I stayed strong! The Man in the High Castle and reruns of New Girl got me through. I’ve been reading this book for quite some time, but it really is a wonderful untold story. It follows the lives of several Black female mathematicians who played critical roles in the evolution of NASA and the first mission to the moon. The women highlighted in this story, along with a number of other women, came to the forefront of computing in aeronautics during World War II. While men were off at war, there was a labor shortage that women needed to fill. These women, however, were so brilliant and respected in their careers, that they lasted long beyond the end of World War II and were some of the first black women to truly break down barriers. When they started (when NASA was still NACA), they were segregated on the campus. Black women in one building, white women in another. All women separate from men. By the end of the story, they were fully integrated with both white women and the men who worked at NASA. They proved to be so valuable that even as racial tensions grew in their neighborhoods, they were trusted and held in high esteem among their colleagues.

It is unfortunate that stories like this take so long to be told. We learned about the mission to the moon when we were young children, but we were never told about the instrumental role that these women played in accomplishing this feat. A white boy sees Neil Armstrong plant his foot on the moon and subconsciously starts believing that he, too, can become an astronaut. A girl or black boy sees this and it feels separate from them. An accomplishment for mankind, but not something they can celebrate, for they took no part. Stories like Hidden Figures need to come to the forefront of history. There will always be groups who do not identify with whoever was the face of the project. It is important that everyone see that they are still being represented, even if it be behind the scenes. This empowers young people to believe that they can become a mathematician or an astronaut or anything else they can imagine.

I’m going to get off my soapbox for now. Read the book, read the stories of the people behind the scenes, rewrite history to include all of the people who made an impact.


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