For our second Showtime Sunday feature, we are highlighting the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Released on January 6, 2017, the film was number one at the box office during its first two weekends of release and has now grossed over $140 million. The film is based on a true story of three incredibly intelligent African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s. These women are Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

There is a reason why this film has been nominated for three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Additionally, the film still has an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 222 reviews. It is applauded for its intriguing story and phenomenal performances from actresses who bring the tensions of racism to light that have been unknown or forgotten for too long.

In this not-to-be-missed film, Katherine Johnson becomes the first African-American woman in the team to assist the Space Task Group of Al Harrison, surrounded by colleagues who are not particularly thrilled about her arrival. Not to mention, the building she works at has no bathrooms for people of color. After some time, Katherine becomes more acquainted with her colleagues and Harrison decides to abolish bathroom segregation after getting upset with Katherine that she is not at her desk since she has to walk to another building to use the bathroom. Despite this bathroom segregation abolishment, Katherine still faces segregation when she is forced to remove her name from reports that include the equation she creates to solve a complex mathematical equation, leading the space capsule to a safe re-entry.

Meanwhile, Dorothy is dealing with her rejection to be promoted to supervisor by Mrs. Mitchell. Dorothy is particularly upset about this because she has the work and responsibility of a supervisor without the pay and respect of one. Later, when Dorothy finds out that there is an installation of an electronic computer that could replace her co-workers, she goes to the machine and starts it. Nonetheless, she is rebuked by a librarian when she is later found in the white-only section of the library. It is not until Dorothy’s success finding the book FORTRAN that Mrs. Mitchell finally shows some respect for her by addressing her as Mrs. Vaughan.

While Katherine and Dorothy are standing up for their rights, Mary is doing the same by convincing a judge at court to allow her to attend the night classes in an all-white school in order to obtain her engineering degree.

“I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice, but to be the first, which I can’t do without you, sir. Your honor, out of all the cases you gon hear today, which one is gon matter hundred years from now? Which one is gon make you the first?” – Mary Jackson

And these are just some examples of how Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, also known as the “human computers,” used their brilliance, confidence, and poise to cross the lines of gender and race to accomplish something extraordinary for the human race. It is for these reasons that they are known as American heroes.

The only drawback to this film is that we had to wait until 2017 to see it. The story of these real remarkable women and their contribution to NASA was widely unknown, or even forgotten, until this film was released. And we can’t forget about all the other women who have made exceptional contributions to U.S. history and NASA.


Follow these wonderful actresses on Twitter:  Taraji P. Henson |  Octavia Spencer | Janelle Monáe

Read about Hidden Figures on IMdB