Hidden Figures Essay Examples

Hidden Figures Essay Examples
Hidden figures essay examples begins in Shetterly’s author’s note”Negro.” “Colored.” “Indian.” “Girls.” Although some readers may find Hidden Figures’ language disconcerting, I have tried to keep it true to the period and the voices of those involved in the story. This guide is Shetterly’s, following her example and using terms Shetterly included where she did not.
Hidden Figures opens in a prologue, in which Margot Lee, the author, describes her research into the women, particularly black women, who worked at the Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, starting in the 1940s. Shetterly is familiar with many of these women and their families, and she begins to dig deeper into their stories. History has largely forgotten about hundreds upon hundreds of them.
Langley was the first place where black women were hired during WWII. Butler Melvin, the NACA personnel manager, had to manage the staffing of Langley during wartime. Langley created the “West Computers”, named after the segregated space they occupied in the West Area. It also hired Dorothy Vaughan, among other mathematicians. Vaughan, a high school math teacher and mother of four, is hardworking, frugal and brilliant. She applied for the Langley job after receiving Butler’s flyers.
Vaughan arrives in Langley amid tensions from Jim Crow laws and overcrowding. The American Negro is conflicted as they seek the “double V”, which means victory abroad, over the Axis power, and victory home, over racism, and inequality. The Dorothy will be served by restaurants that don’t allow them to. Langley’s attitudes towards computers vary from friendly to hostile. Most engineers are ambivalent, as long as they can do math, they can be useful, regardless of whether they’re white or black. Mann Miriam is a West Computers colleague. She steals the “COLORED COUNTERS” sign from the segregated cafeteria table. This small protest was enough to stop Langley from replacing it.
Computers can do complex, long-term calculations by hand and support engineers working to improve aircraft. Vaughan worked at the NACA for seven month before the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki. She then returns to Langley and keeps her job, unlike many other women in America. After wartime pressures have lifted, research becomes more experimental. In 1947, the sound barrier was broken by an American plane. Computers become more specialized in research, and it is natural for them to join engineering teams, so that their math can be more precise for specific experiments. Sponsler was the white supervisor at West Computing. She left Langley due to health reasons. Vaughan, who is the first black supervisor at NACA, takes two years before the title becomes official.
Mary Jackson joined West Computing in 1951. She is 26 years old and holds degrees in mathematics and physical science. She is passionate about the Hampton community, especially Girl Scouts. As tensions between the US and the USSR increase, there is a national fear of communism and spies. The USSR uses America’s racist domestic policies as leverage to gain allies in non-white nations, so President Truman desegregates the military and tries to instate some anti-workplace-discrimination practices. Vaughan sends Jackson to East Computing after two years. There, she meets racism from some East Computers. She complains to Kazimierz “Kaz” Czarnecki who then offers to let her work as an engineer instead. Jackson is the first female black engineer at NACA with Czarnecki’s help. Jackson petitions the City of Hampton for permission to take classes at a school of color.
In 1953, Katherine Johnson joined West Computing. Johnson arrives at Langley just two weeks before Vaughan assigns Johnson to a project in the Flight Research Division. Johnson stays there; Vaughan talks with Johnson’s boss Henry Pearson to formalize the position and give Johnson a raise. Vaughan predicts that non-human computers will rise and encourages women to study programming.
Christine Mann (later Christine Darden), a high school student who is mathematically gifted and politically involved, launches Sputnik in 1957. There are also protests against desegregation in Little Rock. Under immense pressure to beat the USSR into orbit, the NACA disintegrates West Computing. NASA is then reorganized. Vaughan, who is now “one of the girls”, loses her supervisory position at West Computing. Johnson marries again and excels in the Flight Research Division. She is one of the few women who has been recognized for writing a report on azimuth angles in 1960.
NASA’s rise to national and international prominence is seen in the 60s, with Langley being a prominent focus. Vaughan reinvents her self as a programmer and uses engineers’ problems to program computers, instead of her West Computing pool. John Glenn, an American astronaut, becomes the first to orbit the Earth using calculations Johnson checks manually in 1962. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream”, is delivered. Christine Darden is a Langley participant in 1967. Dr. King’s assassination in 1968 takes place, and Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon in 1969. America wins the race for the Moon. But the civil rights movement seems to be at a halt. Johnson, Vaughan Jackson, Darden and thousands of other black people who made the Moon Landing possible can watch the televised broadcast featuring white men alongside 600 million viewers around the world. Johnson is optimistic, however, as she believes that progress can be achieved if you take the first step.
Hidden Figures’s epilogue recounts the protagonists remaining tenure at Langley. Jackson is promoted to Federal Women’s Program Manager at Langley, helping other women achieve the promotions and jobs they desire. Johnson is the most well-known NASA computer, whether it’s black or white. Darden is awarded a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering. However, she regrets missing the peak of the Langley space race activity. Vaughan, though she doesn’t make it on any reports, retires in 1971. Her greatest legacy, however, is still at work in the young women at Langley.

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