Hidden Figures brings the lives of the black female computers of NASA (formerly NACA) to the big screen. Based on a non-fiction book written by Margot Lee Sheerly, Director Theodore Melfi’s film adaption focuses on the figures of Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). The film honestly explores the barriers to these women and other skilled, black women not only in the workplace, but in education and in general society.
In her book, Sheerly explains that the social customs of the era dictated that as soon as marriage or children arrived, these women were pressured to retire to become full-time homemakers. In an interview with the Smithsonian’s online publication, Sheerly comments on the quality of history that makes both the mundane historic and the historic mundane.
“History is the sum total of what all of us do on a daily basis,” says Sheerly. “You go to bed at night, you wake up the next morning, and then yesterday is history. These small actions in some ways are more important or certainly as important as the individual actions by these towering figures.”
Sheerly actively continues to search for the hidden figures today, regularly coming across black female computers that are ready for their story to be told. The Hidden Figures cast hopes to broadcast the stories that Sheerly has searched out to as many people as possible.
“I think Hidden Figures is so hopeful,” Janelle Monae, who plays engineer Mary Jackson, said in an interview with CNN’s Frank Pallotta. “That when we do come together and realize that we all pee the same color, we all bleed the same color blood, once we continue to remember that and keep that in the forefront, that’s when we start changing the world. That’s when we’re at our greatest.”
Hidden Figures beat Rogue One in box office sales its opening weekend.