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Hidden figures : the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space race
2016
Availability
Author Notes
Margot Lee Shetterly was born in Hampton, Virginia in 1969. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. After college she worked in investment banking for several years. Her other career moves have included working in the media industry for the website Volume .com, publishing an English language magazine, Inside Mexico; marketing consultant in the Mexican tourism industry; and writing. Hidden Figures is her first book, a New York Times Bestseller and was optioned for a feature film.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
History
Engineering and transportation
Science and engineering
Topics
African American women
Mathematicians
NASA
Space race
Astronautics
Mathematics
Space travel
American history
Black history
Setting
Hampton, Virginia - South (U.S.)
Time Period
-- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews
Library Journal Review
In this debut, Shetterly shines a much-needed light on the bright, talented, and wholly underappreciated geniuses of the institution that would become NASA. Called upon during the labor shortage of World War II, these women were asked to serve their country and put their previously overlooked skills to work-all while being segregated from their white coworkers. The author tells the compelling stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden as they navigated mathematical equations, the space race, and the civil rights movement over three decades of brilliant computing and discoveries. The professional and private lives of the ladies of Langley Research Center are documented through an impassioned and clearly well-researched narrative. Readers will learn how integral these women were to American aeronautics and be saddened by the racism and sexism that kept them from deserved recognition. VERDICT Shetterly's highly recommended work offers up a crucial history that had previously and unforgivably been lost. We'd do well to put this book into the hands of young women who have long since been told that there's no room for them at the scientific table. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/16; "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 27.]-Kate DiGirolomo, Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Shetterly, founder of the Human Computer Project, passionately brings to light the important and little-known story of the black women mathematicians hired to work as computers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va., part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA's precursor). The first women NACA brought on took advantage of a WWII opportunity to work in a segregated section of Langley, doing the calculations necessary to support the projects of white male engineers. Shetterly writes of these women as core contributors to American success in the midst of a cultural "collision between race, gender, science, and war," teasing out how the personal and professional are intimately related. She celebrates the skills of mathematicians such as Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Hoover, whose brilliant work eventually earned them slow advancement but never equal footing. Shetterly collects much of her material directly from those who were there, using personal anecdotes to illuminate the larger forces at play. Exploring the intimate relationships among blackness, womanhood, and 20th-century American technological development, Shetterly crafts a narrative that is crucial to understanding subsequent movements for civil rights. A star-studded feature film based on Shetterly's book is due out in late 2016. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
K-Gr 2-Shetterly introduces young readers to the inspirational and groundbreaking stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, and their once-hidden contributions to science, aeronautics, and space exploration. Shetterly expertly puts these women's achievements in their historical context: segregation, blatant sexism and racism in the workplace, the civil rights movement, and the space race. Despite the challenges these women faced, they persisted, worked hard, and put a man on the moon. In this picture book take, the text, at times, reads a bit clinical and it's occasionally difficult to distinguish one woman's characteristics from another's while reading. This is remedied with the handy time line of short profiles in the back matter. Freeman's full-color illustrations are stunning and chock-full of details, incorporating diagrams, mathematical formulas, and space motifs throughout (including the women's clothing and jewelry), enhancing the whole book. VERDICT An essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries.-Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate -Institute, Brooklyn © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
CHOICE Review
In her debut book, Shetterly profoundly profiles four female African American employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center. Prior to its widespread adoption of electronic computers, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) employed "human computers" (all women) to perform calculations assigned by engineers (all men). Due to their location on the Langley campus, the African American women computers (the group included Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden) were known as the "West Computers." These women were segregated from other offices until the pivotal year of 1958, when NACA became NASA. Shetterly expertly details the women's struggles against organizational segregation and discrimination, most notably the inroads that the West Computers made in obtaining assignments that had previously been limited to male or white employees, including editorial board participation and authorship of technical reports used for Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs. Shetterly contrasts these events with desegregation legislation opposition and the resulting closing of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Hampton, Virginia (home of Langley). The overarching theme is that whether at NASA or nationally, the potential of US success was negatively impacted by segregation. This work is an important assessment of women's roles in the sciences and US segregation. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Kyle D. Winward, Central College
Booklist Review
Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden are names that have been largely forgotten. The four women worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the mid-twentieth century. Each displayed early aptitude for math, sharp curiosity about the world around them, and marked confidence in the face of discrimination. They contributed to discoveries about space and to sending manned missions into orbit. Their life stories are the perfect impetus for discussion on a host of important historical themes germane to the 1950s, such as gender roles, racial prejudice and segregation, and scientific exploration. In any context, these women's contributions to science and aerospace technology would be impressive, but the obstacles imposed by the norms of their society make their achievements all the more impressive. Middle-schoolers will find their story, here in a young readers' edition of Shetterly's 2016 adult book (the basis of a current movie), engaging and inspirational.--Anderson, Erin Copyright 2017 Booklist
Horn Book Review
With Winifred Cokling. A serviceable introduction to four African American women mathematicians who, despite discrimination, played vital roles for the U.S. in the 1960s space race. Although the illustrations are static, their rich, saturated colors provide interest. Shetterly's (author of the adult title, the basis for the movie) text barely scratches the surface of the women's stories, but she strives admirably to place their accomplishments within historical context. Timeline. Glos. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
At a time when "colored" water fountains and separate bathrooms also meant that African-Americans were excluded from many good jobs, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden made themselves indispensable to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became NASA in 1958. These four African-American trailblazing mathematicians worked as NASA computers before machines performed mathematical computations for the space program despite sexism and segregation that made their jobs extremely difficult. In one spread, Freeman uses the gutter to separate these four women from several white women, illustrating how the black and the white computers worked apart, used separate bathrooms, and ate in separate lunchrooms despite working on the same kinds of assignments. While Shetterly and co-author Conkling emphasize these women's tenacity, the picture-book lacks some aspects of their characters that the Hidden Figures film to which this is a companion captures well: their subversion, their senses of humor, and the community they built among black NASA employees as conditions improved. Their somber expressions throughout most of the illustrations imply that they found little enjoyment in their work, but their longevity at NASA suggests otherwise. Rich backmatter offers a timeline of historical events, biographies, a glossary, and an author's note from Shetterly.An important story to tell about four heroines, one that will lead young readers to the longer, more-nuanced coverage available when they are ready. (Informational picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary

The #1 New York Times bestseller

-WINNER OF ANISFIELD-WOLF AWARD FOR NONFICTION

-WINNER BLACK CAUCUS OF AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION BEST NONFICTION BOOK

-WINNER NAACP IMAGE AWARD BEST NONFICTION BOOK

-WINNER NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING AND MEDICINE COMMUNICATION AWARD

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA at the leading edge of the feminist and civil rights movement, whose calculations helped fuel some of America's greatest achievements in space--a powerful, revelatory contribution that is as essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America as Between the World and Me and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The basis for the smash Academy Award-nominated film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South's segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America's aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam's call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia's Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley's all-black "West Computing" group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA's greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country's future.

Table of Contents
Author's Notep. ix
Prologuep. xi
1A Door Opensp. 1
2Mobilizationp. 9
3Past Is Prologuep. 19
4The Double Vp. 27
5Manifest Destinyp. 37
6War Birdsp. 51
7The Durationp. 61
8Those Who Move Forwardp. 69
9Breaking Barriersp. 77
10Home by the Seap. 93
11The Area Rulep. 107
12Serendipityp. 117
13Turbulencep. 125
14Angle of Attackp. 137
15Young, Gifted, and Blackp. 149
16What a Difference a Day Makesp. 161
17Outer Spacep. 175
18With All Deliberate Speedp. 183
19Model Behaviorp. 193
20Degrees of Freedomp. 201
21Out of the Past, the Futurep. 213
22America Is for Everybodyp. 227
23To Boldly Gop. 235
Epiloguep. 247
Acknowledgmentsp. 267
Notesp. 273
Bibliographyp. 319
Indexp. 329
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