by Margot Lee Shetterly
Buy the Book: Amazon
Goodreads: Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true 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.
Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.
Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world—and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments.
Kritters Thoughts: Set in the town that I grew up and where my dad spent a lot of his career - Hampton, VA and Langley Air Force Base and NASA; I didn't know much about the history of the base and the NASA organization, so when I heard about this book and it coming out in a movie, I jumped at the chance to review it.
I have watched the tv show The Astronaut's Wives Club and love seeing the movies that take a glimpse into the space program, but to hear the years of Langley before space was even a goal. Yes, this book takes a focus on the black women who were recruited to be the mathematicians/computers behind the tests they are doing and the data that needs to processed.
This book had almost two parts fused into one book. The one part I mentioned above about the women who were hired to do the amazing mathematical computing to keep the engineers moving forward on their tests. The other part was the interesting history of both Langley and the surrounding community of Hampton. Hampton and VA were slow to adopt integration, but Langley was quick to hire both black men and women for jobs as long as they were qualified. They may not have gotten equal pay, but Langley was known as a great place for African Americans to get a great paying job. The book also hinted throughout the book about the civil rights movement and how it affected Langley and the work they were doing.
I know part of the reason I enjoyed this book was that it happened in my neighborhood and my dad worked on the base. I also love history. I would put a warning that this book definitely included details on the tunnels and tests that were at Langley and I may have skipped and read through those parts a little quickly.
Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row
I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.