comScore Hidden Figures Clip Tackles Education | The Mary Sue
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Inspiring Hidden Figures Clip Will Remind You to Never Take Your Education for Granted

"Every time we have a chance to get ahead, they move the finish line."

If there’s one movie you need to see this weekend, it’s Hidden Figures. The film tells the important story of real life super computers Katherine Johnson and her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked for NASA in the segregated West Area Computers division of the Langley Research Center in the 1960s. With Russia successfully launching a man into space, the pressure was on for America to respond in kind. Enter Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson: It’s their calculations which helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space, allowing him to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

In honor of the film’s wide release on January 6, 20th Century Fox shared a clip featuring Janelle Monáe (who plays Mary Jackson) in court making a plea to be able to take engineering classes at an all-white high school in Virginia. In order for her to become an actual NASA engineer, she needs to get her engineering degree. The problem is, those classes were not available at the black schools she was allowed to attend. We like to think that the Civil Rights Movement was forever ago, but there are still people alive today who remember being in her shoes and denied the opportunity to further their education because of institutionalized racism.

This clip, and to a further extent the film, illustrates the notion of working twice as hard to get half as far. Jackson had to go to court and fight for her education in order to create a level playing field with white men, some of whom didn’t even need to have the same qualifications in order to get the same job. Johnson had to run a mile just to get to the nearest “colored” bathroom in order to relieve herself. And Vaughan was working as a supervisor without the title or pay, and had been repeatedly rejected when she applied for said title. Despite all of these obstacles, they succeeded and that is pure black girl magic.

The black girl magic reigning throughout this movie is important for so many reasons. For one, it’s an opportunity for young black girls to see that people who look like them do exist in STEM and that it’s not a “whites only” club. If they can do it, so can you. It also brings awareness to the fact that yes, African Americans have contributed to this country outside of human rights atrocities like slavery and entertainment like basketball and rap music.  Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson had such an impact on one of the biggest moments of American history and while it angers me that most of us had never heard of them before, I’m glad their story is finally getting told in such a big way. I beg you, go out and support this movie so we can get more like it.

And if you feel like diving deeper, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name has even more details on the incredible lives these extraordinary women have led. Hidden Figures is out in theaters now.

(via 20th Century Fox, image via screencap)

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