Courage at Twilight: Hidden Figures

Hannah came home with me for the evening, and to spend the night. After a dinner of soup and toast, I invited her to pick a movie to watch with Mom and Dad.  She went to their movie archive—three basement bookshelves lined with DVDs and even VHS tapes—and came back with Hidden Figures, the story of the critical contributions made by three Black women to NASA’s nascent space flight program and to launching the first American astronaut into earth orbit in 1962.  That astronaut, John Glen, asked human computer and mathematician Katherine Johnson to recheck the new IBM computer’s go/no-go capsule re-entry calculations.  Mary Jackson broke through glass ceilings to help engineer the orbit capsule.  Dorothy Vaughan, a FORTRAM computer language expert, became NASA’s first Black supervisor.  I have seen the movie several times, and always find it inspiring.  These women, and many others, were both heroines and pioneers.  My favorite movie moment is when NASA Director Al Harrison, in a meeting with the nation’s top brass, transfers from his white hand to Ms. Johnson’s brown hand the stick of chalk, a baton, a metaphor for so many necessary human equity advances, including civil rights and women’s rights.  The book is high on my reading list, and I look forward to reading more about NASA’s remarkable hidden figures.

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