The movie “Hidden Figures” is a wonderfully untold non-fiction story written by Margot Lee Shetterly about three brilliant “colored” women working in key positions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the dark Jim Crow era.
The main characters – Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) – served on a team of brains for the historical launching of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
Directed by Theodore Melfi who co-wrote the script with Allison Schroeder, some of the scenes and portrayals may have been a little glossy and imbalanced as some critics say, but the essence of this little-known history is important and relevant even in today’s social climate.
Here you had a pool of exceptional black women labeled “computers,” relegated to separate quarters and subject to the same “White Only” rules that applied outside of NASA. To show the ridiculousness of it, when Katherine – recognized for her stellar mathematical skills – was assigned to the Space Task Group, she had to run a half-mile just to get to the only “colored” restroom on the campus.
When the director Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) learned of it, I felt a sigh of relief when he changed the rules and tore down the “colored” rest room sign saying, “We all pee the same color.” If only it were as simple as that to tear down racism in the hearts of mankind.
There’s only so much that can be said in an hour and 27 minutes, but we can imagine the frustration; the heartache; the blood, sweat, and tears these women endured having to prove themselves time-and-time again.
Their strength of character eventually earned them the acknowledgement they so rightly deserved and reminded me of the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
The only thing in the movie that distracted me was during the opening scenes – set in 1961 Virginia – when a policeman pulled up in a 1964 Ford (three years ahead of time). Afterwards, I found myself checking out all the other vintage cars and I think I even spotted a Chevy Malibu, which too would not have debuted until three years later in 1964.
As it stands, I do not know enough about the space program’s history to compare the story line to, so as far as I’m concerned, the story was told very well; I applaud Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson who went on to achieve even greater successes!