Hidden Figures and The Effect of Racism

Hidden Figures showed the struggle African/Americans and women went through in the 1960’s during the American and Russian space race. Throughout the movie, the women went through many racial battles in the white dominated society. Through their hard work, the women could only get so far in the NASA facility. These struggles would affect not only them but there families as well from not knowing what to expect next. The battles they endured made the 3 main characters smarter, harder working, and stronger than any white male at NASA.

The movie begins with the 3 main characters, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson carpooling to the NASA space station with Mary taking out her stress and anger out by speeding. Pulled over by a white cop naturally came with racist comments and a low chance of getting by without a ticket. With conversation between the ladies and the cop the women mentioned they were going to NASA and we’re going to be late. The cop changed his mind about the women because his top priority was beating the Russians into space. He then escorted the women the rest of the way. The movie continues to show the white male working class needing the hard working women more and more.

The African American Women worked in the worst part of NASA with about 20 other colored women. They had the least important job on the campus but these women endured the pain and did the work anyways. The ladies continued to believe they could rise in the working class with hard work and loyalty. The white males deeply new the ladies were smart but would not admit it because the society they were in did not let them. Al Harrison was in charge of the NASA engineer team and held a very powerful position. Al began to see the strengths of the women when Al needed another engineer to calculate and check numbers. Al chose Katherine Johnson, one of the best number crunchers at NASA, to be on the Engineer team. The lead engineer, Paul Stafford, did not agree with this as well as the other 15 white male engineers in the room. When Katherine walked into the white filled, most important room at NASA, all she got were stares. The white men looked uncomfortable and displeased. They made Katherine a “colored” coffee pot with no coffee in it. She also had to go to her previous work area, where all the other African American women were to go to the specific “colored” bathrooms. Al noticed these time consuming and racist tasks to a stop to increase the efficiency of Katherine’s work. So Al took off the “colored” signs everywhere on campus. Katherines respect then slowly raised up as she repeatedly proved the lead Engineer wrong in his calculations and showed new innovative ways of space travel.

When NASA obtained the new computers for 100,000 times faster calculating efficiency, Dorothy new her and her African American co-workers’ jobs were at stake. Dorothy taught the women how to code and function the computers from a simple book from the public library. The privileged white males trying to figure out the machine did not have the strength of patience to learn it. The gave Dorothy and her co-workers the perfect opportunity to obtain better status in the workplace. Al Harrison noticed the inefficiency of the computer and the white males work. Al hired the ladies of the colored part of NASA to run the machine. It worked better than ever.

Mary Jackson made her way up by first helping engineers in the wind tunnel and gaining influence from them. They noticed Mary’s intelligence and fought with her for her job placement. Mary had to take class for the certain job she was going for. But the local school did not accept black woman into the program. Mary went to court and got approval to attend by giving the judge a selfish to do so. She explained to him that he would be famous in the future for his decision and shown as a civil rights activist. Mary had to take the night school making her days longer and harder, but she was used to the torture and endured it.

As the movie progressed, the white males are shown after the Russians beat them to space that they need help. The fighting underclass African woman jumped in to help and obtain what they truly desire of equality. Without the women, the US would have never been able to reach the moon before Russia. The women showed what the African Americans had to face during the time period and the effort they would go through to get to a state of equality.


By Cameron Huntley        

        

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