By: Taylor M. Brooks
We all know the stories of African American women such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Madame CJ Walker, and Sojourner Truth who paved the way for women today, but there are many other women whose stories Americans don’t know; stories such as that of three African American women who worked for NASA during the 1960s. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn were mathematicians and engineers during a time of segregation and because of them the movie “Hidden Figures” is out in theaters.
“Hidden Figures” has easily become an important film for African Americans around the globe, topping the box office its opening weekend by showing intelligent black women at work. This movie is different from other movies because not only is this about black history but its timing. The U.S. is currently in a time where we have a new president, who has seemed to make women feel both uncomfortable and unimportant. This movie is deemed as a reminder of “girl power” and “black girl magic.”
Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), who is the main character of this movie, is a mathematician who was assigned to a team of engineers to be the “human computer” where she would make and check calculations. Johnson became the first African American woman of the group showing so much dedication that she would take her work to the “colored” bathroom miles from her workplace. Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer), the eldest of the group, yearned for a promotion to manager, which was eventually given making her the first African American manager at NASA, while fighting to keep her team of African American women “computers” employed with an IBM machine coming in threatening their jobs. Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monae) faced the racist nay-sayers and became the first African American woman engineer. During this time, women were fighting not only race wars but gender wars. Without these extraordinary women, astronaut John Glenn wouldn’t have been the first American to orbit the Earth in the 1960s.
Senior Erin Johnson saw the film and believes the movie is important for all black people. “We can see that our contributions as a people influenced not just our country but our planet,” Johnson said.
Actresses Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe accepted these roles with grace and pride putting their hearts into these characters. For movies in Hollywood, the Oscars are the highest honor, and after Henson’s Oscar snub for 2010’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” this should be Henson’s year. Spencer has won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for 2012’s “The Help” and Janelle Monáe, being the new actress of the group, has no Oscar nominations or wins yet. Oscar nominations are released Jan. 24, and then presented on Feb. 26. Time can only tell if “Hidden Figures” can break the #OscarsSoWhite line and help make history once again.