We all know about the first men to land on the moon, but not much about the people that got them there. Hidden Figures follows the story of Katherine G Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), the African-American women that were behind this groundbreaking moon landing. These three leading women worked at NASA through the 1950’s and 60’s to make it possible for Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn to become American heroes. Katherine, Mary and Dorothy were working hard behind the scenes in the height of the Jim Crow days where they weren’t even allowed in the same bathrooms as their white peers. Theodore Melfi (film-maker) conveys the outrageousness of the bathroom situation, showing Katherine going for a 20 minute jog every morning across the Langley Research Center in Virginia to use the appropriate ‘colored’ bathroom. This is only one of the many scenes these important situations appear to the audience to be more light-hearted. However Melfi makes sure to include these events to convey an accurate portrayal of the times.
This movie is more than just the story of the African-American mathematicians that helped launch one of the greatest moments in America’s history, it shows the importance of those behind the scenes. It isn’t a coincidence that during the height of the Jim Crow era these women weren’t highlighted at NASA. Their stories were kept in secret, using their knowledge to NASA’s advantage and to do what no man has ever done before – but with the help of a woman, especially a group of black women was outrageous at the time. The story of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan transcends NASA, it shows that no matter what you look like, who you are, and what you do at home, you can work together with a group of people to accomplish something revolutionary. This is a movie that encompasses all of those things, we can all push differences aside to accomplish amazing things.
Hidden Figures are hidden no more.
Thumbnail Credit: 20th Century Fox