"‘Hidden Figures' brings NASA's overlooked black pioneers to light" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2017
SUMMARY: “Hidden Figures” is a story about reaching for the stars while fighting racial and gender barriers. The new movie follows the careers of three black women who worked at NASA's Langley headquarters in Virginia during the 1950s and ‘60s to help launch the first American into space. Long overlooked, their story is finally being told. Jeffrey Brown reports.
ALISON STEWART (NewsHour): A movie opening widely this weekend tells a little known piece of history about the history of the early days of spaceflight and the crucial role played behind the scenes by African-American women who acted as mathematicians and engineers.
The film is called “Hidden Figures.” It's up for a number of honors during this awards season, including two Golden Globes on Sunday night.
Jeffrey Brown has a look at the film and that history.
ACTOR: You have identification on you?
TARAJI P. HENSON, “Katherine Johnson”: We're just on our way to work.
OCTAVIA SPENCER, “Dorothy Vaughan”: At NASA, sir.
ACTOR: I had no idea they hired....
OCTAVIA SPENCER: There are quite a few women working in the space program.
JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour): It's a story about an agency that reached for the stars, but was mired in racial and gender barriers still prevalent on the ground.
“Hidden Figures” is based on the real-life stories of three black woman who worked in mostly segregated quarters at NASA's Langley Center in Virginia in the 1950s and '60s.
The film focuses on efforts to launch the first American, the late John Glenn, into orbit.
ACTOR: Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?
JANELLE MONAE, “Mary Jackson”: I wouldn't have to. I would already be one.
JEFFREY BROWN: Janelle Monae, the singer-turned-actress, plays Mary Jackson, struggling to get her license as an engineer. Like the others involved, this history was new to Monae.
JANELLE MONAE: I was excited. I said, wow, we're going to finally be celebrating Women not just for their beauty, but for their brilliance. And I got excited. And then once I found out that they indeed were part of the space program at NASA, it became a personal responsibility to me to make sure that no young girl, or no human being, no American, you know, went through life not knowing of these true American heroes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mary Jackson would spend 34 years at NASA and help many who followed.
JANELLE MONAE: She found out that the women and minorities were being paid significantly less than their male white counterparts. And she, along with a couple of other colleagues, took this to NASA. And, you know, NASA being the progressive place and the place that listened, she helped advance more women's careers and more minorities' careers in STEM at NASA during that time.
So, I thought that was just so remarkable, and I'm so honored to play such a woman.