Rick's Interview with Author of Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly

Thursday, March 16th




The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race




Imagine the first scientists and engineers trying to send rockets—and eventually people—into space. With no electronic computers, they relied on an elite group of mathematicians capable of doing the most challenging calculations by hand, calculations that would launch men into space and forever expand our knowledge of the universe.


Among these “human computers” were the black women whose genius for numbers made space exploration and travel possible. They’re finally introduced to America in Margot Lee Shetterly’s HIDDEN FIGURES: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. Now available in paperback, the book was an instant New York Timesbestseller upon its release in September 2016.


It’s no surprise that this story was adapted for film even before the book was finished. It’s the inspiring yet largely unknown true story of the African-American female mathematicians at NASA whose work that helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Ironically, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were responsible for some of NASA’s greatest successes at a time when Jim Crow laws ensured NASA remained segregated.


HIDDEN FIGURES is a story that combines the rich intersection of the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality. Margot Lee Shetterly is the perfect person to write it. A journalist and independent researcher, she is also the daughter of one of NASA’s first black engineers. Her insider’s knowledge, direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book lend it a depth and perspective that goes beyond mere research.


HIDDEN FIGURES draws on extensive research, oral histories, personal recollections, interviews, and articles from the era to create an incredible picture of never-before-seen history.


Now available in trade paperback and soon to be a major motion picture from 20th Century Fox starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner, with a soundtrack by Pharrell


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY is a writer who grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation of the Humanities grant for her research into the history of women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, VA.



Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Amare really show ever leaves her job through the book hidden figures. The New York Times best seller that inspired the film that for the last year. Has just been at the absolute tip top of the charts immunity has been. You know was Oscar nominated. Even now after the movie has been out as long as it has. If you try to get into a showing of it it's absolutely still you know a lot of times sold out to it has been incredibly popular. How Beckham lined there are right we got tipped Lou. Oh yeah we do know good morning. Good morning Harry you know you know what I'm doing great and I told everybody you've you know toured the country already today and not lift your chair you've been. That's your late today. A fifty more days. I'll Wear wonderful. You know I am I'm just delighted that we've got this time with you today first congratulations you know it's. How how many authors in the in the planet would would have sold their soul to have their first book can be this book correct. I know I I am just you know every day even now. You know months after the book came out in the movie came out and still kind of pinching myself to detect and then absentee Cinderella story. And and and good for you I mean you know your way at the good the rest of your life now and say you know what I told I adapted to introduce the world to this remarkable story. Yeah I you know I antenna capital and you know hadn't figured it's going to be the first line in my obituary. You know it's it's been an absolutely remarkable. Experience having this story together and you know bringing these women and and there are. This story back polite and and shedding new light on this story that we we all know write the program and looking at different people in that paragraphs. You know what what I enjoyed so much as it is always going through the book this weekend and and degraded to to go overseas summit to the book with him and just to rebuild on the planet can't wave but. What I love is dead. When I was a kid growing up and love the space program it never occurred to me never dawned on me that there were people who were plotting angles of orbit and were you know trajectories. And in the precise timing of how things had to happen. Let alone to these were African American women that were plotting these things I mean. It's incredible to me what they were able to accomplish under incredible pressure. And why you know parts of the reasons why I am being named but hadn't figured it it really referred to so many different things. Like he's dead you know there are a lot of people working on these numbers for a lot of decades before we were able to factor and the man. And I email and that among those where a group of the black women who were literally. Segregated into that separate offense so you know I and then you can read more on the job for decades Kino lead they weren't getting up and going to work everyday aches and died and we now that that we're kind of fat. You know appreciating them for the work that they did. And you grew up who with these women around these women who were Sunday school teachers are right I mean you knew them you knew them for one reason and then later found them to be. These remarkable women so so you maybe have a little bit of an access to their stories of others frankly might not have been able to get that close to. Richard you know my dad he's been a whole career at an unfailingly research center he was an atmospheric research scientist. And that's the reason why I would privileged to know these women and their stories and and so many other women who were doing this kind of pork and men who were during the female engineers scientists. Not so I was very exciting. And that got to be my kind of default and as to what people did for work. Tom and you know it can mean really he also saw them as people in the community and Denny didn't really think like 400 than usual you know everybody got up and went to work. Take up and went to work and that's cut and did it you know only now is that it's sort of like wow how cool don't police were doing some remarkable stuff and they had. One heck of an adventure. You know during during that Steve page time. But they got up and went to work and then peaked in separate cafeterias. Righty and used to separate restrooms because bout was America that. That's great you know this is also in many ways the history. Social change and progress and when the stories started to calm these women went to the colored bathrooms on day eight in the college cafeteria. On and they Enola gay they weren't even allowed then it you know it people who were black or not allowed to go and be buried in the white Greek art and match sticks and add the I've segregation and and yet. Despite all of the things these women and you know on the fact that women for example could even get credit card and they are named after that stage and does it leave women you know use these what we use the theory. Primitive tools. Sidled elect you know I'm mechanical calculators. And they helped get. Our aeronautics industry up and running and they helped and human and distinct. When you first began to visit with Dorsey and and marrying Kathryn and Kristen when you when you first engaged in this were they anxious to tell you their story here where do we serve a little bit of the kingdom Poland. Ending very matter of fact. I would say armed you know Katherine looks like won't you know I think this turn my job even if you African Italian fashion almost 99 years old. And in in August and willingly if meaning he's building after her computational facility after her. Serious matter of fact you know very proud about the work that you did and that's the quality that you brought Cilic. But still very much like you know what I'm doing my job and so on a few things that I'm you know the more I talked with them the more and he remembered that you now. The more this storied you know gotten richer and interest staying and I I think that they have enjoyed. You know not to speak claim individually each. But I think that if this idea that these women I think group Ike getting up long overdue recognition. Movie aside and in what we've learned with the movie book as you engaged with these women what what what they say was of their greatest accomplishment fault it's with a specific mission or just. You know in general what they how they were able to advance women's positions with with NASA and Langley where what was it that. If you were there to there epitaph right. Yeah it isn't specific you know I mean they're very much. Scientists and engineers mathematicians you know in the end they're they're very kind of specific working after Katherine Johnson. On they would really her work on something called lunar orbit rendezvous which was you know providing some of that and putting calculation that helped teach. On the team portion of the Apollo spacecraft. Chilling act up again. On you know after the lunar Lander on down the moon's surface you kind of go back up and and dock with the orbiting. Part of the spacecraft and go home you know with Christine Darden for example. Com she was somebody to order a computer program to ensure that the young engineer in 1973. I don't went on to be kind of an industry standard for sonic blue men imitation which is something that very important for the study of supersonic flight so calm while they were all extremely. How did their contributions. Of his campaign women and Andy you know African Americans in the work place. They were most proud of their work if scientists and engineers cannot petition. Well then that's. It's remarkable if it's such an incredible time and our history anyway and to be able were. And you know I'm new pew I'm not gonna bore you with the question that you financed a Brazilian times about you know have we not nor practice I've I'm. Never ceases to amaze me how many stories we still don't know in in good that maybe this will. Prob somebody else to share a story that we don't know all right. I really hope so I mean there I found so many. Fascinating stories that you know what they're just sitting there you know and so I look forward to you know the next. At least I bought that are written and I'm told topics and Kelly to put it makes people read those. They're good for you will just. You know congratulations. And in so well written and a lot of people helped you with your first time. As an author and and thanks to all of them in your husband and everybody remark thanks for bringing this story to a sets fabulous. Thank you so much and am I really enjoyed being on. Think too there you go that's a Margo we showed early the author of hidden figures. And man what a story read the book don't just leave it to the movie read the book all right time for the news crews and 1430.