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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

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Soon to be a major motion picture starring Golden Globe–winner Taraji P. Henson and Academy Award–winners Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.

Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world—and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments.

ISBN-13: 9780062363602

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 12-06-2016

Pages: 368

Product Dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in her book Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Prologue xi

1 A Door Opens 1

2 Mobilization 14

3 Past Is Prologue 29

4 The Double V 41

5 Manifest Destiny 57

6 War Birds 79

7 The Duration 95

8 Those Who Move Forward 108

9 Breaking Barriers 122

10 Home by the Sea 149

11 The Area Rule 171

12 Serendipity 186

13 Turbulence 199

14 Angle of Attack 219

15 Young, Gifted, and Black 237

16 What a Difference a Day Makes 255

17 Outer Space 277

18 With All Deliberate Speed 290

19 Model Behavior 307

20 Degrees of Freedom 321

21 Out of the Past, the Future 339

22 America Is for Everybody 362

23 To Boldly Go 376

Epilogue 396

Acknowledgments 429

Notes 437

Bibliography 525