Forgotten HistoryWho writes history? Who is responsible for the enormous task of recording our past and deciding which events are important or not? The people who write our textbooks work to feature events that affect our future and events that we as a society can learn from. The problem, however, is there are so many important events within our history that it’s often hard to decide which events are most important and impactful. The recently released movie Hidden Figures highlights a part of history that many of our history books have overlooked. It takes place in 1961 and focuses on the importance of African American women in the success of the Mercury Project. Most of our textbooks only focus on the battles of the Vietnam War during that time period, not the technological civil rights advances that occurred during the Space Race that gave a sense of power to the United States. When looking specifically at Project Mercury, the mission to put the first American into space, the only information that can easily be found is about the astronauts that went to space or very vague descriptions of the events that occurred on the day of the launch. Very few sources discuss the technology we created in order for the space launch to be possible. Innovations in physics, calculus, geometry, and computer science allowed Project Mercury to be successful. Many of these innovations were greatly influenced by women at NASA. Hidden Figures features three of these African-American women Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson. Dorothy Vaughan started her career at NASA in the West Computing Group, a segregated group of African-American women who were computers, or the people who did the complicated calculations required for various NASA’s launches and projects. She then was promoted and became the first African-American Supervisor and went on to become an expert programmer. Mary Jackson also worked in the West Computing Group for two years. She was then offered to work with engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. He encouraged Mary to take the required continuing education classes so that she could become an engineer. She fought a legal battle that eventually allowed her to go to a segregated high school where she could take these classes. Katherine Johnson briefly worked in the West Computing Group but was quickly moved to work on a project in the Flight Research Division. Then, when the Space Task Group was formed to try to be the first nation to put a man into space, Kathrine, the only African American women, did much of the trajectory analysis and created many of the equations that would allow for a successful mission. Only in light of this movie has the country become aware of the incredibly important role that these women and technology had on the space launch. Hidden Figures highlighted one of many cases in which a great advancement was forgotten because the events surrounding it were seen as more significant. In conclusion, we need to begin thinking more critically about what our history books choose to include and exclude. https://www.nasa.gov/content/dorothy-vaughan-biography https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-was-project-mercury-58.html https://history.nasa.gov/computers/Ch8-2.html https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography
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