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Hidden Figures Hidden From The World

History has taught me through all levels of school (elementary, Jr. high, and high) about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. I didn’t learn necessarily in that order, but they were the first three black icons to come to mind in reference to this blog. However, and later in life, I would find there were plenty others never to be mentioned.

School history did not teach me that Mrs. Rosa Parks was not the first black to defy the law of sitting in the back of the bus and getting arrested for the same.
Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black Civil Rights leader who organized the March on Washington, D.C. way back in 1963, sat in defiance before the legendary
Mrs. Rosa Parks. He was arrested for the same act, but it was not widely publicized because he was gay, black, and a man, which is another part of history I did not learn in school, but instead as an adult and from PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).

Two weekends ago my daughter and I saw the movie, Hidden Figures, along with a number of other teenagers, parents, and sorority sisters who were all a part of
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and ASCEND, the mentoring program. The AKA’s arranged for us to have a theater to ourselves, and after the movie was shown there was a question and answer session from Mildred Johnson, sister-in-law of the last living survivor, Katherine Goble Johnson. Lonnie Johnson, husband to Mildred and brother of Katherine was also in attendance.

By now everyone in the country is familiar with the movie and the actors who portrayed the now famous ladies with the brilliant minds:
Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) helped send men to the moon and orbit the earth.

Now, I gotta admit that even though this was a feel good movie, I had an unsettling attitude that left me with many questions:

“Why am I just learning about these women? Why weren’t we taught about their astonishing accomplishments at the same time the nation was praising and celebrating astronauts?” I am 54 years old and I’m just now learning that three women were responsible for launching men into space? Anger.

“And whose methodical decision was it to purposely seal this part of history?” So, now I’m tapping my chin wondering who the hell I should be pissed with. I’m feeling some kind of way with the educational branch of government and whoever else had anything to do with omitting this story from the school curriculum and history books. Disappointment. Was this a systematic way of suppressing the next generations of Jacksons, Goble Johnsons and Vaughans because these women were black? Nah, the government wouldn’t purposely do that (written with all the sarcasm I can muster), would it? Had this story not been withheld maybe there wouldn’t be a desperate awareness and need for students to become interested in S.T.E.M
(Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), which brings me to my next paragraph….

How in the world was the entire country left in the dark about this part of history that was hidden in plain sight? How could the country celebrate John Glenn when he first orbited the earth without mentioning what it took to get him there? He didn’t just get there on his own. He didn’t calculate all that needed to be considered – including that if calculations were off, he could have burned to death in his space craft or left to drift in outer space for all eternity. And Neil Armstrong may not have even landed and left his foot prints on the moon – had it not been for a few good women.

Only one 98 year old survivor remains. Anger, disappointment – and now sadness.

It was announced this past weekend that Eugene Cernan, last astronaut to land on the moon in 1972, had passed away.

John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, died in 2016 – the entire country heard of his triumphs and death.

Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the moon died in 2012. The nation celebrated his historic accomplishment and then his death. As perpetually reported by Walter Cronkite who verbally wondered, “what there is to add to that.” Oh, there was a lot more to add, Mr. Cronkite 〈me whispering〉 but it was one of the country’s best kept secrets.

I’m not going through each person who was heralded and praised for going into space because with each one, I’d get a little more pissed – color me what you will, but they’ve had their lion’s share of praise and respect. I can’t help but wonder if it was ever nationally announced when Mary Jackson passed in 2005 at the age of 83 or
Dorothy Vaughan in 2008 at the age of 98. I knew nothing about either. How ’bout you – did you  know?

I am still softly angry, but at the same time so very proud of those incredibly talented women. When a question was asked about why this movie is just coming out, the answer was partly because they were women who went to work, did their jobs and weren’t looking for any recognition – women like any other woman who goes to work to support their families. I get it. It’s no big deal for me to do it; however, my job is in no way comparable to what theirs was. I don’t even like basic math! And yet these women were known as human computers! Can you even imagine being smarter or quicker than a computer – it’s almost unimaginable to a layman like myself – but they were, and according to Mrs. Goble Johnson’s sister in law, she is still mentally sharp at 98 years old. A feel good moment.

So, from this point forward, whenever I witness anything that has to do with aeronautics, astronautics, space or a space craft whether it be in a movie or on live T.V., I will proudly and forever know that three young women with exceptional minds had everything to do with it launching into space.

Thank you Mary Jackson (aerospace engineer).

Thank you Katherine Goble Johnson (physicist and mathematician).

Thank you Dorothy Vaughan (mathematician).

And thank you to the group of lesser known women who worked with the aforementioned, but are still as valuable.

So, I say shame on anyone who denied these women their due praises, accolades, awards, odes, interviews, and most important an acknowledged place in history.

Shame on NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

And shame, too, on the United States of America.

Jeremiah 22:3
This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.

Thank you for readin’ my writin’.


About T. Anthony-Horton

If you know me, you are very much aware of how I truly enjoy writing - because after all - it is my thang. If you are unfamiliar with me, welcome to my wonderful word of me. I have one book published, "Office Antics & Sexual Liaisons", and I am actively working on the sequel. I humbly appreciate all who have purchased and read my 1st creation (even if you read it without purchasing, you have entered my mind and got a sense of my writing style). I always welcome all feedback; positive, negative, indifferent - doesn't matter - makes me a better and more conscientious writer - all I ask is that you not be disrespectful. I can be sarcastic, comical, sensitive, informative, and overly descriptive (lol) as I've been told. I'm cool with all that, and to those who are not into my style of prose, I get that too. I still have two other books in my head that should've been on paper a long time ago - what?! - I do have a life y'all! So stay tuned for the sequel, which is tentatively titled, "After the Antics". In the meantime, continue to follow my blog and tell someone about it. I love you for readin' my writin'. Peace!

16 responses »

  1. Glenda L. Ranson

    My son allowed me to view the movie and we both came away inspired. It was refreshing to see a young man praising women for their accomplishments. I could see the racial tensions that existed in that day as they still do today in the workplace. They come about in subtle ways and as those women, I too, have learned to “bridle” my tongue.

  2. I’m glad you written about all these black men and women. Because just like you I Was not taught this in my history class. I have learned something new now my day was not wasted. Thanks for being so informative

  3. Matilda, good points indeed and I am sure even today, there are many African Americans contributing to the progression of this world we live in that we are not and probably will not be aware of. I loved the movie as it reminded me of back in the day before we had PC’s and there was a such thing as the “Ran” department and we had to compute the benefits of our recipients and there was a pool of African American women doing it every day. It also confirms what I know which is it takes hard work, being humble at times, (that i have to work on as I am still a work in progress on that issue) dedication and a commitment to yourself! not to no one else, those ladies were committed to the betterment of themselves and everyone in their lives had to understand that commitment and be willing to accept and support it. Now, whenever I get tired, overwhelmed and damn right disgusted, i think of those ladies and what they had to go through to get where they were and that straightens me right up and it helps me to realize all of my blessings, gives me strength to continue to fight the obstacles and move forward with achieving what I know I can do.

    • Yes, Doreen, that movie does put things in perspective when we feel the need to complain. I’m just happy that we did find out about the women no matter how late it was. Thanks for reading and responding.

  4. Very good piece girlfriend. Isn’t wonderful to share such learning experiences with your daughter.?!

  5. My thoughts exactly….i too was baffled as to why we weren’t taught this in history class…..especially during black history month….being an advid reader myself…. i’ve learned alot about the many things that ppl of color have contributed to this crazy world we live in…..inwhich we still use till this day….true it’s saddens nd angers me as well….that a lot of them were never acknowledged/thanked nd or appreciated for their contributions….. i was so overjoyed this movie was made…so that that black youths….especially our youngwomen can see….that yes we had many intelligent black women….who were just as important.

    • Yes, Angel, that omission from history has a lot of us baffled. Another gem that many of us may still be unfamiliar with is Hidden Colors – it’s power packed with so much information. If you’ve never checked it out, please do so. Thanks for reading, girl!

  6. Wow, very interesting blog. I can see where this has raised many questions that will probably never get answers as to why these woman were never mentioned & recognized. God help us!

  7. All things done in the dark will always be brought to light. God has perfect timing!!! I believe that someone somewhere needed to know about these women at this point in time and not a minute before.

  8. Yes! And as the mother of a very successful, smart, and kind computer engineer who happens to be an African American woman, I shout it from the roof tops (even though she is too humble to do it)… 😊🙏🏾


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