Above: Aeronautical Engineer Christine Darden holds a model plane in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.
The women of Hidden Figures
In November 1943, Dorothy Vaughan, a teacher at the Negro high school in Farmville, Virginia, joined an experiment quietly underway at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. Early that year, facing a skyrocketing demand for the computational work required by aeronautical research, personnel managers at the laboratory quietly hired a group of African American women with math backgrounds to work as “human computers”. There was no way for anyone to predict that the path that brought Dorothy Vaughan and the scores of other black women to the world’s premier aeronautical research facility would travel through the defining moments of the twentieth century, and end at the Moon.
Told from the point of view of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, and spanning three decades of history, Hidden Figures charts the progress of the black women mathematicians who answered their country’s call to service during World War II and stayed on to help America achieve one of the things it desired most–a decisive victory over the Russians in the Space Race.