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1Miles Anna MilesMr. PuringtonPhysics7 January 2019 No Longer Hidden FiguresHow would you feel if you worked hard to accomplish something incredible, only to receive no credit for what you achieved? You would probably be shocked, upset, or even angered. However, this is exactly what happened to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Over fifty years later, the movie Hidden Figurestells the unsung story of these intelligent and courageous women. By 1961, the space race was in full gear. The United States was rushing to put a man in space, and behind the scenes, a few unassuming women were working to make this happen. Theywere the West Area Computers – an all African-American team of female mathematicians often referred to as “human computers”. Working in the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, these women did difficult calculations, often by hand, and processed all the data neededfor astronauts’ missions to be successful. Of course, it was very unusual at the time for companies to hire women, let along black women, for semi-professional jobs. So unusual, in fact, that “[NASA] was one of the few employers at the time willing to employ African-American women” (Heathman). Being hired didn’t mean these women’s struggles were over – infact, their battle for equality and recognition had just begun. The West Area Computers all dealt with the prejudice and discrimination of their superiors, and even had to use segregated bathrooms located over half a mile away from their office. From a young age, Katherine Goble (later Johnson) was extremely talented. She was also
2Miles courageous, becoming the first African-American female to graduate from West Virginia State University at the age of eighteen. Being willing to do things that no one had done before continued to be one of her defining characteristics. In 1953, Katherine joined NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which later become NASA) as one of the West Area Computers. Her first major assignment was to help calculate the trajectory for the Freedom 7 flight in 1961, a historic success which set the stage for the mission to orbit earth. After this accomplishment, she became part of the team to put John Glenn into orbit. Her primary job was