Racism and Inequality in “Hidden Figures”

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Hidden Figures takes place in the sixties, when women and African Americans were looked down upon, especially in the South. The film occurs in Virginia where three African American women and mathematicians, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson worked and created the plans for one of the greatest launches for NASA. These women were extremely disadvantage, with their race and gender, yet manages to play a vital role in NASA during the early years of the Space Race.

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In the NASA facility, segregation was a full fledge affair. There was a separate dining and bathroom facilities that were for all African American woman that worked there. As is shown during the scene where Johnson is gone for over forty minutes because she had to walk half a mile away to go use the bathroom. During this bathroom speech Johnson explains that the building she works at has no colored bathroom so she must walk as far as a “Timbuktu” just to relieve herself. The whites also do not even so much as get coffee from the pot she drinks. There is also a pay difference between her and the white men who work at NASA because of her race and gender. There were many disadvantages that were in her way however she managed to change all that with her wit and brains.

Director Theodore Melfi thought to include that Americans were scared during the time of how the Soviets were ahead of them in space and the gridlock in the Cold War did not help either. Not used to catching-up they was a bit of competition in the air between countries to make it into space. While there was excitement because Kennedy had said “we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” With how the events were shown chronologically it appeals to Americans by showing the excitement and appeal to things such as the space race and at the same time opening up new conversations such as civil rights. Everything related to the space race builds suspense because the nation was all in agreement that Americans wanted to be the first to get to the cosmos.

He also makes sure to show the everyday struggles of these women. In the scene where they are pulled over on the side of the road because of car trouble they say to themselves that there is not a crime to have car trouble or be black. A cop comes to a stop to ask for their identification and learns that the women were on their way to NASA center. The cop is a little confused and was going to say that he didn’t know they hired colored people but one of the women intervenes before he can quite finish his sentence by stating that there were a few women that worked there. It was her reaction that made the audience sympathize with her because this probably wasn’t the first time someone had probably suggested such a thing.

Hidden Figures showcase the reason why someone was able to make it to space. Many Americans knew that America managed to make it to space before anyone else, but they didn’t know any behind the scenes work. This movie reveals the three woman who put in so much time and effort into making sure the launch would be successful. It gives credit to these women who then had every obstacle in their way yet managed to launch the US into space and revive the confidence of Americans. They change the course of history with their efforts and showed how African Americans excel with their disadvantages, such as gender and upbringing, in anything even STEM.

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Racism and Inequality in "Hidden Figures". (2020, Apr 09). Retrieved September 25, 2022 , from

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