The movie, Hidden Figures’ Black Girl Magic, Black excellence, or whatever you want to call it, just keeps getting better!
As final weekend box office totals pour in, the film about three real-life black mathematicians (played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe) driving NASA’s position in the Space Race amid racial segregation in 1960s Virginia, has surpassed best picture frontrunner La La Land to become the top-grossing best picture Oscar nominee of the year!
Initially projected to have earned much less, Hidden Figures has made $119.5 million in North America, while La La Land‘s tally clocks in at $118.2 million.
The movie is about the United States race against Russia to put a man in space. To get there first, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history.
Based on the unbelievably true-life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers,” we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and firmly cemented them into U.S. history as true American heroes.
The film is based upon the non-fiction book by Morgot Lee Shutterly. In 2013, Shutterly, who’s dad worked for NASA, founded The Human Computer Project, an organization whose mission is to archive the work of all of the women who worked as computers and mathematicians in the early days of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She sold the rights to her book in 2014 and the rest is history.
Here’s what you need to know about these incredible ladies:
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer)
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was an African American mathematician who worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor agency to NASA. Prior to arriving at NACA’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1943, Vaughan worked as a mathematics teacher at R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia.
In 1949, Vaughan became the head of the West Area Computers, a work group composed entirely of African-American female mathematicians. Mathematician Katherine Johnson was assigned to Vaughan’s group before being transferred to