Hidden Figures: Addressing Race and Gender Bias in Science and Technology

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Why is Hidden Figures a must-see movie in 2017?

Based on the nonfiction novel written by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures highlights the achievements of American physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson and the untold story of her and her colleague’s aid in scientific history.

Starring Taraji P. Henson, the 2017 film takes audiences through a time of segregation in the West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center, where Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) worked on the forefront of the Space Race.

Their calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon illuminate the accomplishments of NASA while simultaneously addressing race, color and gender bias in science and technology. Not only were these profound scientists women, but African-American women.

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Shetterly, the African-American author whose father also worked as a research scientist at NASA-Langley Research Center, further discusses the importance of the story behind the critically acclaimed film in her personal website

She explains how she aimed to,“recover the history of these pioneering women,” through her writing and that it is, “situated in the intersection of the defining movements of the American century: the Cold War, the Space Race, the Civil Rights movement and the quest for gender equality.”

In theaters January 6th, Hidden Figures, has the potential to not only open the eyes of girls and women across the world who hope to be successful in male-dominated occupations, but also to remind African Americans of their contribution to history and science in a time where many still feel discouraged.

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