Just finished Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures,” soon to be a major motion picture, as publishers used to say. The trailers to the film had me figuring it was a Fla/NASA story about the women who did the math before computers were machines and not Civil Service job titles.
But of course it pre-dates that. Some of the women who did that work were African Americans, scoring plum government technical jobs way ahead of the integration curve. They were brought into the work force at the Langley research center in Hampton in the middle of segregated “Massive Resistance” Virginia during World War II, and proved themselves and rose through the ranks of aeronautical research as it morphed into rocketry and played an integral part in early manned flights.
They went to schools like Hampton Institute and other historically black colleges in Va., W. Va. , N.C. and elsewhere. They left teaching jobs in Farmville, Va., White Sulfur Springs W. Va. and environs, leaving families behind to help win the war. Black men were slower to make inroads, despite Roosevelt Admin efforts to level the playing field to help the war effort. But female “computers” came in, in segregated work quarters, and made their mark, gradually pushing open doors through the end of “separate but equal.”
With Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Taraji B. Henson, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons and an unproven “St. Vincent” producer directing, this could be a contender…or at least a feel good January release. A good book that could have been improved by the inclusion of a few photographs