Hidden Figures is Literary Black Girl Magic

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly Book Cover

I saw Hidden Figures in theaters last year, and I loved it, in spite of the movie taking liberties with that White Savior Narrative. This movie provided all the #BlackGirlMagic I needed in my life! When I finally read Hidden Figures, I loved the book too! It’s a true story about black women who are mathematical geniuses. I was so excited to learn about Katherine Johnson and the other black NASA computers. To see women who look like me being outstanding in the face of adversity! I cannot fully describe how moved I was to see this story unfold on screen. Why has it taken so long for this story to be told?!

I will always be extremely proud of these brilliant and brave black women. They used their intelligence and talents to help a country that treated them as second class citizens go to the moon and back. I was constantly angry reading just a sliver of the Jim Crow segregation that kept Black Americans separate and unequal. The black men and women working at Langley had to face double standards, low expectations, and dangerous stereotypes. We Black Americans continue to fight against the legacy of Jim Crow today.

Overall, my reviews for Hidden Figures and its movie adaptation will never be truly unbiased. Besides, I don’t have anything to say about them expect both the book and the movie were black excellence personified. I unapologetically loved them both. Therefore, I will not make you read through a total #BlackGirlMagic gush fest. Instead, I am sharing the book quotes that most resonated with me as a black American woman.

A Woman’s Worth

There was virtually no aspect of twentieth-century defense technology that had not been touched by the hands and minds of female mathematicians.

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

Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite over a Selected Earth Position went through ten months of editorial meetings, analysis, recommendations, and revisions before publication in September 1960–the first report to come out of Langley’s Aerospace Mechanics Division (or its predecessor, the Flight Research Division) by a female author.

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

The Burden of Blackness

The Negro’s ladder to the American dream was missing rungs, with even the most outwardly successful blacks worried at any moment the forces of discrimination could lay waste to their economic security.

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

Negro life in America was a never-ending series of negotiations: when to fight and when to concede.

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

For too long, history has imposed a binary condition on its black citizens: either nameless or renowned, menial or exceptional, passive recipients of the forces of history or superheroes who acquire mythic status not just because of their deeds but because of their scarcity.

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

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