4 Hidden Facts About 'Hidden Figures'

I was really really enjoying Hidden Figures, the film about a trio of black female scientists whose behind the scenes efforts were important to the early space program.  I was feeling the outrage the director wanted me to feel at the humiliating segregation these women had to fight against in the late 50s and early 60s as NASA raced the Soviets into space.

Then it hit me. As a preacher commended a handsome soldier for being part of the president’s enforcing of Brown v. Board of Education, I thought, “Wait. And there are still separate bathrooms at NASA labs in Virginia? In the 1960s?”

Well, no. There weren’t.

So as Hidden Figures hovers around the top spot in DVD sales on Amazon, here are four pivotal reasons to be cautious about adding it to your collection as a compelling history lesson that’s suitable for young minds.

1. NASA, like all federal agencies, was desegregated in the 1940s

Hidden Figures, the movie, is set in the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton Va., as the United States is trying to overtake the Russians in the space race in the 1960s.

The lab is portrayed as having white and colored bathrooms, water fountains, and even coffee pots. This is outright fiction.  Something like this may have been the case in 1942, but not 1962. FDR ended this, and it certainly wasn’t in full view in the Kennedy Administration.

Katherine Johnson, the real woman behind the story of the film, started working there in 1952. She says she never experienced any overt racism and talks glowingly about the team effort of NASA. Which brings us to our next point...