If one wants to observe a portion of the history of African-American women during the 1960’s , then this film is mandatory for students of true history. These three brilliant women made remarkable contributions to NASA’s space program, but they also paid the price of not only being women in a field which women were routinely kept out, but the double whammy of also being African-American women who were also smart. They were slighted, insulted,and even ignored, but their brilliance, like cream rising to the top, made their participation and presence, required and unmatched. But yet, history tried to ‘hide‘ them.
During that time, women were forced to wear ‘costumes’ which addressed dress length, (no pants), jewelry, etc. And in those days, women went along with it – because, after all, what choice did they have? But it was far worse for the African-American women, for, due to the Jim Crow laws in effect, they could not even use the same facilities as the White women. And, unfortunately, many girls, of all races, were disabused of any desire to pursue a vocation which required intense mathematical skills.
Mary Jackson ,Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan were hired as ‘human computers’ and pre-dated actual computers, with the first computer being the huge IBM ‘machine’. Katherine Johnson, a childhood mathematical genius, successfully calculated the difficult trajectory calculations which contributed to launching a man into space and returning him safely back to earth. Mary Jackson was an engineer for the space program, who had to fight for the job and its title, even though she was doing the work. Dorothy Vaughan, also a brilliant mathematician, hired as a human computer, eventually mastered IBM and programming it, and became a computer programming expert, as well as supervising the NASA computer unit.
In November 2015, Johnson was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The following May, NASA opened the new $30 million, 40,000-square-foot Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at Langley.
These women are heroes and role models for all the young girls out there who choose to work in fields which require mathematical skills, and, for women of color, who can be assured that their skill will speak for them. The women are excellently presented in this film, and their story will give you chills and you will find yourself cheering for them, yet also crying with them, but ultimately, celebrating their victories.