Before Mae Jemison ventured into space, a couple of fresh, young mathematicians rocked the NASA scene. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Miriam Daniel Mann, Kathryn Peddrew, Sue Wilder, Eunice Smith and Barbara Holley.
In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an order to allow more African Americans to be hired at the Langley Research Center at NASA. Within two years, Langley Memorial Research Laboratory began hiring college educated black women with degrees and backgrounds in mathematics and chemistry.
These women were known as “human computers” at the Langley Memorial Research Laboratory. Before computers came along, these women were crunching numbers; figuring out wind tunnel resistance, rocket trajectories and safe reentry angles. Despite discrimination within the workplace, due to Virginia’s Jim Crow Laws, these women kept calculating and made significant contributions to aeronautics and astronautics.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, the story of these brilliant women will be coming to the big screen. Ted Melfi along with the Fox 2000 production company are in the process of producing a film based on Margot Shetterly’s forthcoming book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. The film will feature the infamous sassy Yvette from Baby Boy; Ms. Tarji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), the feisty and domestic Minny Jackson from The Help; Ms. Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughn) and the forever-eclectic musical phenom Ms. Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson).
A date for the film has not been released, but I am patiently awaiting the presence of the film. In a world filled with superficiality surrounding females, this film will serve as an example to young girls all over who aspire to be scientists and mathematicians. It will reflect the capabilities of so much more than the things that are portrayed about women on all media platforms.