Three female African-American mathematicians provide crucial calculations for NASA’s space race against the Soviets, all while dealing with the racist and sexist assumptions of their white co-workers. Set at NACA, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the forerunner to NASA) in Virginia, America in the 1948-1958. One of these ladies in particular proved invaluable in the role of the US space programme.
The main theme addressed in the film Hidden Figures is Racism and Gender inequality. The main character in this film is a Black Lady call Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson). She is a brilliant mathematician having the brains behind NASA putting the 1st Man on the Moon. Working within a ALL male dominated Industry, she manages to outsmart and outwit the most amazing male minds. Since the new IBM computer wasn’t running, the Space Task Group needed an individual who could work out the number in her mind and get accurate results. This group was all whites and only 2 girls. A quote by Vivian (female white supervisor) “They’ve never had a colored in here before, Katherine. Don’t embarrass me.” This makes it same as if she along with the other whites do not have much faith in her ability to perform, just based on the color of her skin. She had to put up with the racist comments and accusations to do with her race. In the 1940’s, Woman had no major roles in employment and most often their work were not credited for as males would take all the glory. This was shown in the movie when Katherine did all the write up of calculations, analysing geometric earth entry, signing her name at the bottom along with her male, white co-worker. When handing in her paper and predictions, her co-worker demanded her to reprint it without her name on it. The Space Task Group would be embarrassed if a female’s name was on the crucial calculations paper, but especially a Black woman. She was also denied entry into the conference where numbers always changed causing her to restart her calculations. After persisting for many days, the boss allowed her name on the paper and granted her permission to go into the all white male conference about the earth entry calculations. An example of segregation in the film Hidden Figures is Katherine having to run just over half a mile in high heels with a stack of paper in hand to use the “Coloured Bathrooms” in the west wing. She wobbled with bundles of equations to work on when she is on the toilet. She then ran back. Overall she took three bathroom trips causing her to miss 2 hours of work. Eventually all facilities were desegregated. In the film, the scene when this was apparent in was when the head of the unit bashed down the coloured sign on the west wing bathrooms.
Hidden Figures portrays racism. Racism is still a main focus in today’s world. This is once again a clash between whites and blacks. For an example, in the News over the past years there is always police officers shoot at blacks, mostly of teenage, who they assumed were involved but were actually innocent and witnesses. In today’s society, many still believe that white is the superior race. Going back in history, stereotypical blacks were slaves, maids and workers for the whites with no or very little pay, none or very unhygienic accommodation like a shed and small amounts of food. To this day, some white individuals still convinced that the coloured race is low ranked. This movie focuses on the lives of remarkable people who, up to now, have been ignored because they were women and because they were black. It shows why they were important while allowing them to remain human. Katherine Goble was the woman behind the scene of NASA putting the 1st man in Orbit of the Earth 1962. Society was very surprised by this as she was a woman and black. How ever could a woman do that within such a large company and using her mind and tools to win the race to the moon, let alone being the superior race of the world at that time. Quoted by
Jim Johnson: “You’re a computer at NASA. They let women handle that sort of stuff.”
Katherine Johnson: Yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson, and it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses. This quote teaches is that the gender or race we are should not affect the way people think about us and should be given all the same opportunities as other and should not be treated differently because of our personal determinant of health.
This film teaches us that parts of the society are very inflexible. For example, white people’s attitudes towards black people, even though this was a true story set in late 1940s thru to mid1960s, these attitudes are still present today, 70 years later!!! IN the 1940’s segregation was a very important issue with toilets, buildings and nearly everything else separated into coloured and whites. Gender inequality with job roles was also present, ie in the film Analytic geometric Programmer predominantly all male but there was a female whom was also Negro that performed the role to perfection. The whites were also getting the blacks to do the harder work, and females getting passed over for promotion even though they are extremely capable and determined with their careers. In today’s world, gender and race issues have decreased giving all and everyone respect and opportunities to become better. All people should be treated the same in society – no matter what their race, skin colour, but discrimination unfortunately will always be present. “Separate and equal are two different things. Just cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right, understand?” quoted by Katherine helps us understand how she feel about the segregation at the NACA headquarters in the time. Katherine teaches us that just because she is black and in a white man’s office, it doesn’t mean she is different from the rest. They are all humans and should be treated equally, and have no assumptions and cruel comments about them just because of their gender and race.
This heartwarming, crowd-pleasing film, Hidden Figurescelebrates overlooked and crucial contributions from a pivotal moment in American history. This movie should be watched by all to share light on the history of negro woman and how they changed to world forever for all.