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

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HarperCollins, Sep 6, 2016 - History - 384 pages

The #1 New York Times bestseller

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.



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

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

Shetterly, founder of the Human Computer Project, passionately brings to light the important and little-known story of the black women mathematicians hired to work as computers at the Langley Memorial ... Read full review

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Though I loved the movie this is nothing like it. And it is true I expected that and that was part of the reason I wanted to read the book to see the true story, not just the hollywood reproduction. Being an avid reader I hoped this would be a good addition to the books I've read how very wrong I was. The authors writing is utterly confusing and absolutely boring. Without a clear purpose the book is confusing the plot bounces all over covering to many different perspectives that are unintrancing. It doesn't just cover the computers it puts in unrelated perspectives utterly confusing the reader. The book doesn't grab your attention and if/when it does it quickly drops it. Boring, interesting, and reading it was a waste of my time. 

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A Door Opens
Past Is Prologue
The Double V
Manifest Destiny
War Birds
The Duration
Young Gifted and Black
What a Difference a Day Makes
Outer Space
With All Deliberate Speed
Model Behavior
Degrees of Freedom
Out of the Past the Future
America Is for Everybody

Those Who Move Forward
Breaking Barriers
Home by the
The Area Rule
Angle of Attack
To Boldly

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About the author (2016)

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.

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