Hidden Figures Book Summary By Margot Lee Shetterly

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Hidden Figures (2016) is an inspiring book that tells the incredible story of the black female mathematicians who were integral to making history and revolutionizing space exploration.

In this book, we learn about their struggles and triumphs as they left their teaching jobs in segregated Southern schools to help launch the first astronaut into orbit around the Earth and Neil Armstrong to the moon.

The book also provides insight into how hard these women worked to overcome racial and gender discrimination in order to make life-changing contributions to science, math and technology.

Readers are sure to be inspired by these courageous, trailblazing women who answered the call of duty with passion, resilience and determination.

Hidden Figures Book

Book Name: Hidden Figures (The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race)

Author(s): Margot Lee Shetterly

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Hidden Figures is an inspiring book written by Margot Lee Shetterly, a capable writer who grew up in Hampton, Virginia.

As a result of her upbringing in this area, she was able to develop meaningful relationships with the incredible women that form the basis of her story.

Her commitment to uncovering their stories resulted in her receiving a research grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and an Alfred P.

Sloan Foundation fellowship among other accolades.

She exemplifies hard work and dedication towards uncovering these remarkable stories that have been kept hidden away so they can now be shared and celebrated.

The Untold Story Of Black Women In The Space Race: Exploring A Historic Moment In African American History

African American History

Did you know the secret history of NASA and its behind-the-scenes staff? It’s time to get educated on the hidden figures who helped shape America during World War II.

In the 1940s, science and technology were largely dominated by white males – with only 1 percent of American engineers being black.

But what many people don’t realize is that a group of black women were at the forefront of wartime American science and technology.

The author of Hidden Figures wanted to learn about these amazing women, so she went to Hampton, Virginia where she was surrounded by many adults in her community who had thriving careers in math, engineering and other scientific fields.

She uncovered how workplace segregation kept these talented individuals from reaching their full potentials.

She discovered how some were lucky enough to break through these systematic barriers and find opportunities within NACA or NASA.

Finally, she learned how John Glenn put his special trust into one of these unknown heroes–a small yet poignant gesture that shaped a momentous breakthrough in space exploration.

It’s time to explore this unknown piece of American history – uncovering all the courageous and brilliant women who quietly helped propel America forward during WWII.

Uncovering The Hidden Heroes Of Nasa: The Untold Story Of Black Female Computers

The story of black women mathematicians at Langley began in the 1940s with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA.

Founded years earlier in 1917, it worked during World War II and the Cold War to develop warplanes and other kinds of machines.

At this time President Franklin D.

Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 which desegregated the defense industry, allowing black women to work at NACA’s research headquarters in Hampton Virginia.

But when they arrived they were placed on one side of the campus, separate from their white co-workers, who called them “West Computers” as a result.

It was these brave and pioneering black female mathematicians that helped America explore a whole new frontier: space!

Their skill was instrumental in key twentieth-century developments such as World War II, the Cold War and even assisting in electronic computing technology which would soon become commonplace.

Today Katherine Johnson is the most well known among these women and has been given tremendous honors such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom; but more people should know about these remarkable female mathematicians whose hard work behind the scenes helped make America an aerospace superpower!

The Unsung Heroes Of The Aircraft Industry: The Black Women Of Naca During World War Ii

When the United States entered World War II and the demand for airplanes soared, so too did the need for mathematicians to help design them.

As a result, a new opportunity arose for black women to join the nation’s aircraft industry.

With President Roosevelt’s call for racial equality in federal jobs, this opened the door for black female mathematicians – now known as The West Computers – to work at NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics).

Although it is still unknown as to exactly how many women worked there during that time period, studies suggest anywhere between hundreds and even thousands employed by NACA between 1938 and 1943.

It wasn’t easy either.

At that time, only a small percentage of black women had university degrees, with those who did likely working as teachers in their hometowns.

Now though, these trailblazing ladies had to pack up their lives and relocate to a new city in order to work at NACA which also meant leaving behind family members.

Additionally, they put in 6 days of hard work each week all while commuting on segregated buses.

Yet despite these difficulties and much more adversity thrown their way later on, The West Computers persevered and slowly started changing the face of mathematics forever – all thanks in part to the World War II era having helped open that first door of opportunity leading the way.

The Brave Trailblazers Of The Langley Research Center: How Black Women Persevered Through Segregation And Humiliation


The West Computers did not allow discrimination and racism to bring them down.

Despite being forced to bear the brunt of segregation and humiliation, they persevered through it with grace and strength.

One example is Miriam Mann who, in protest of the “Colored Computers” sign at the dining hall, kept taking down any signs that replaced it.

Katherine Johnson also showed tremendous courage and resilience by refusing to back down in spite of the extra hardships she had to face just for being black.

Not only did she refuse to walk across campus to use a separate bathroom but she also broke barriers as the first woman from the flight-research division to author her own report.

These incredible women demonstrated their bravery and resilience in the face of extreme adversity, inspiring all of us with their strength and tenacity.

The Injustice Of Gender And Racial Discrimination In The Us Space Program: The Rising Of Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden And Other West Computers Against Systemic Oppression

The West Computers at Langley endured more than just racial discrimination.

They also had to face gender discrimination due to the fact that it was nearly impossible for them to be promoted no matter how talented and deserving they were.

While their white male counterparts benefited from things like mentorship and apprenticeships, leading to eventual promotions, the best position the black women in this division could hope for was a supervisor role.

This was a tough battle that was ultimately won by Dorothy Vaughan, who became Langley’s first black manager in 1951.

Vaughan then worked hard to help get other women – black and white alike – promoted as well.

However, even then they were still expected to quit their jobs once they started having children, but due to financial obligations black women were forced to keep working regardless of expectations.

It was Christine Darden who opened her division chief’s eyes about this situation; her asking him why less educated men continued getting promoted led her eventually securing an engineering team job.

She worked at NASA for forty long years through these successes, becoming an expert in sonic-boom research along the way.

By paving the way for both racial and gender equality within Langley Aerospace Center, The West Computers are true heroes who helped shape history – and society – for the better.

The West Computers: Overcoming Segregation To Make Lasting Contributions To Aerospace Technology

Aerospace Technology

When it comes to the achievements of the West Computers at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, there’s more to the story than just science and engineering.

While those women made vital contributions through complex equations and computations for the aircrafts during a turbulent period in the US political climate, their success also showed how race and gender relations could be challenged.

Despite segregated schools persistent in some states, particularly in Virginia where Senator Harry Byrd and Governor J.

Lindsay Almond threatened to defund schools over integration, these remarkable women not only served as models of knowledge but also beacons of hope for other African-American engineers who wanted to follow their paths.

Their work at Langley was a necessary step forward towards bridging the gap between races within society–especially when Katherine Johnson was asked twice by astronaut John Glenn himself–to do calculations for both his historic orbits around Earth in 1962 and Apollo 11 moon mission launch in 1969–with her results proving invaluable for successful trajectories of both missions.

The scientific contributions of these pioneers show us that despite trying times and inequities, progress can still be made when we stand together.

Wrap Up

Hidden Figures is an incredible book that shows us the power of women and their achievements in the twentieth century, especially in fields like science, engineering and math.

This book emphasizes just how much the achievements of black women have been overshadowed and undervalued throughout history, instead of being celebrated and acknowledged for their immense contributions.

This book highlights a particular group of amazing female mathematicians who were integral to the success of the Apollo mission that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Their pioneering efforts instilled optimism, hope and courage in all who read about them, as well as inspiring others to pursue careers in STEM fields.

The final takeaway from Hidden Figures is that every contribution matters and everyone can make a difference if they believe in their own potential.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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