In preparation for the 2017 release of 20th Century Fox’s new motion-length film Hidden Figures, here are five awesome facts I learned from my interview with the author of the best-selling novel, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly.
- The First African Americans to work at NASA were women. African American women
started by NASA in 1943 with a group of five African American computers. African American men did not start at NASA until 1951.
- Shetterly’s father was a research scientist at NASA and worked with many of those women.
- The movie adaption of Hidden Figures was approved over a weekend based on a 50-page screenplay and was in production five weeks later. This was all before the official completion and release of the best-selling novel.
- This year, NASA dedicated its new Computational Research Facility in honor of mathematician Katherine Johnson, one of the main characters of Hidden Figures.
- Alexander Hamilton motivates Shetterly. Well, kind of. In the last few months of writing her book, Shetterly – who’d read the book Hamilton before she began writing Hidden Figures – was inspired not just by the incredible “sweeping characters and long history” in the book but by the musical by Lin Manual-Miranda. Fittingly she played the soundtrack on repeat until the book was completed.
Hidden Figures, adapted from the novel Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson. The three main characters are “computers” who worked at the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) during America’s race to space against the Soviet Union in the 1960’s.
For more about my interview with Margot Lee Shetterly check out my other articles: Words of Wisdom from Hidden Figures Author Margot Lee Shetterly and Hidden Figures: Turning Science Fiction into Science Fact.
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A. Angélique Roché is an attorney, consultant, policy wonk and communications professional. Angelique has previously served as a legislative aide for the United States Senate and has held various positions on local, state and national campaigns. Most importantly she is a Doctor Who loving nerd who loves finding the intersections of activism, policy, politics and current events, aka, a PoliBlerd. In addition to being a contributor to Black Girls Nerds, she is a freelance writer and poet. Roché is a board member of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, where she also serves on its faculty and is part of the founders circle for Higher Heights for America.