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Hidden Figures : The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly




Overview -

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, Hidden Figures is the never-before-told story of NASA's African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America's space program--and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these "colored computers," as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America's fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Freshman Common Read: University of Mary Washington, MIT, Cedar Crest College, University of Houston, SUNY Oneonta, University of West Virginia, College of William and Mary, Lafayette College, Palm Beach State College, Lone Star College--among others

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More About Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

 
 
 

Overview

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, Hidden Figures is the never-before-told story of NASA's African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America's space program--and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these "colored computers," as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America's fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Freshman Common Read: University of Mary Washington, MIT, Cedar Crest College, University of Houston, SUNY Oneonta, University of West Virginia, College of William and Mary, Lafayette College, Palm Beach State College, Lone Star College--among others


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062363596
  • ISBN-10: 006236359X
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Page Count: 368
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Smashing stereotypes, solving equations

The “hidden figures” in the title of Margot Lee Shetterly’s new book will not be hidden much longer. This story of African-American female mathematicians who made a significant impact on the Space Race has already been optioned for a film due out in January. It’s a surprising story, even more so for how long it took to be told.

Shetterly profiles several of the women who, upon realizing that their math skills qualified them for a better living than they could make doing virtually anything else, pulled up stakes and decamped for Hampton, Virginia, in some cases leaving husbands and children behind. Once there, they attempted to make their way into the middle class even as they chafed at the restrictions placed on them by segregation. One of the “Colored Computers,” as they were called, drew the line at a cafeteria sign designating one table as theirs. Sick of the reminder, she pulled down the sign and shoved it in her purse. 

Working for the NACA, as it was then known, to design the bombers flown during World War II led to employment with NASA as the Cold War generated frantic U.S. efforts to surpass Russia. If Shetterly’s prose is sometimes dry, the material it covers is fascinating and loaded with victories large and small for these highly skilled and tenacious workers. 

Shetterly writes about Katherine Johnson, one of the “computers” described in near-mythic terms by a growing fan club, as representative of the America we aspire to be. Her description could apply to any of the women profiled in Hidden Figures: “She has been standing in the future for years, waiting for the rest of us to catch up.”

 

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

BAM Customer Reviews