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

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who…

byMargot Lee Shetterly

Hardcover | September 6, 2016

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The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA at the leading edge of the feminist and civil rights movement, whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space—a powerful, revelatory contribution that is as essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America as Between the World and Me and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The basis for the smash Academy Award-nominated film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.


Margot Lee Shetterly was born in Hampton, Virginia in 1969. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. After college she worked in investment banking for several years. Her other career moves have included working in the media industry for the website Volume .com, publishing an English language magaz...
Title:Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who…Format:HardcoverProduct dimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.17 inShipping dimensions:9 × 6 × 1.17 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:006236359X

ISBN - 13:9780062363596


Rated 2 out of 5 by from Could have been better There's only so much wiggle room when writing a non-fiction book, but man! This was so dry at times, and there is little sense of chronology. The intelligence of the women, their dedication and just the plain ol' ability to do extremely complicated mathematics with only pencil, paper and a slide rule under immense pressure (miscalculate= lots of people die) so much promise here! The book, for me, failed to draw me in. These are some incredible women, but the book didn't really bring them to life in the way, for example, A Beautiful Mind humanized John Nash.
Date published: 2018-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read, great price. I became interested in this book after watching the movie. It provides a lot more detail and character development vs the movie. A decent sized book for a week vacation or gift to a mid-late female adolescent who aspires to succeed in math/science/or a male dominated industry.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good. Very good and captivating book.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Keeping track of names! Lots of amazing history that is untold about the space race and black history. But as a person who struggles with names, this was a challenging book to get into and finish. Glad I saw the movie first as it helped to keep things organized and give a face to events and the racism that are part of the history.
Date published: 2017-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why on earth were we not taught this in history class??!! We need more books about POC! I couldn't put this book down, it was so inspiring to read about these ladies trials and accomplishments!
Date published: 2017-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing book An important story that needed to be told
Date published: 2017-04-19

Editorial Reviews

“Restoring the truth about individuals who were at once black, women and astounding mathematicians, in a world that was constructed to stymie them at every step, is no easy task. Shetterly does it with the depth and detail of a skilled historian and the narrative aplomb of a masterful storyteller.”