Review: ‘Hidden Figures’: reveals the power of education and excellence

Yolanda T. Amon, Writer

If you are looking for a movie that will inform and inspire you during Black History month, Screen Actors Guild Award winner “Hidden Figures” is a great choice.  The film is based on the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.  It tells the true story of three African-American female scientists who worked at Langley Research Center, a field center of NASA,  in Hampton, Virginia in the 1950s.

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae deliver an inspiring performance as “the computers in skirts” who contribute a lot to the United States Space Program.  The movie highlights how these women used their brains and a spirit of excellence to fight racism.

All three of the real-life human computers portrayed in the movie became the first in their areas of expertise.  Katherine Johnson, portrayed by Henson, was a mathematician whose numbers were so concise that the astronaut John Glenn called her to check the calculations of a complicated trajectory made by the computer before launching the Friendship 7, in 1962, a scene dramatized in the film.

 Dorothy Vaughn, played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, was a trailblazer who headed Langley’s segregated West Area computing division from 1949-1958. Vaughn went on to become NASA’s first African-American manager.

Janelle Monae plays Mary Jackson, NASA’s first black female engineer. In the 1950s, she experimented with processing data from wind tunnels and flight.  She went on to head NASA’s Equal Opportunity Office, making changes to benefit female workers.

The concern that I have is that these ladies and their victorious story was left out of American History Books.  Thanks to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book on which the film is based, their story is now being told; many will be informed and inspired by the way these women chose to fight racism.  Their weapon and their solution was to perfect their gift of science and math through education and excellence.

This is what resonates with me.

I probably know the answer to why this story wasn’t told to the masses. The outrage and the anger that we could feel about that story being hidden, we could choose to channel into perfecting our God-given gifts through education and excellence.

“Hidden Figures” was nominated for three Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, and is playing in theaters now.