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

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Robin Miles

10 Hours 48 Minutes

HarperCollins Publishers

September 2016

Audio Book Summary

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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Reviews

  • Jennifer Tingey

    I loved this book! It was so well written and thought out. The author described just the facts without the embellishments of conjectured conversations. It was written in such a way as to convey potentially dry historical facts into meaningful, inspirational words. Words that offer hope for humanity, progression, and left me (and I'm sure most readers) wondering what contribution I can make to society. I felt motivated and empowered to make some positive change in my life so I can be a part of making a positive change in society. I was a little frustrated and disappointed that these women were not mentioned in our history books. They, especially Kathryn Johnson, were monumental in getting our first astronauts in space. Not only were they women working in a predominantly male industry, they were black. Would it have made a difference today for people of color, especially women, to have these women mentioned alongside John Glen or even W.E.B Dubois? I believe it would've. How could it not empower them or anyone? It's crazy I never learned about these women. I would've been enthralled. I enjoyed listening to the narrator. I'm going to look up some other books she may have read for. I couldn't listen to her if I was tired because her voice was very soothing.

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