My husband was given two free movie tickets at work recently. We don’t go to the movie theater as frequently as we used to. Due to the outrageous price of movie tickets (over $12 for a movie…. seriously???) and the price of cinema popcorn and cokes, we just rarely go to movies these days. I still laugh at a story that was printed in our local city’s News Chronicle last year. Apparently, a husband (who obviously hadn’t been to a movie in a very long while) went alone to a movie he was really eager to see. He was more than shocked at the price of the ticket, and even more surprised at the concession stand prices. But he purchased his ticket, popcorn and coke and went into the theater and found a seat. He pulled out his phone and apparently sent his wife a text saying “I’ve just been robbed!” He of course was referring to the high prices he had just paid. His wife, upon receiving his text message, thought he had literally just been robbed and so she called the police, who went rushing to the theater. It was all of course a big misunderstanding and I think even the police thought it was rather humorous. I still laugh at that story.
Anyway, hubby and I decided we would use these free tickets and go see the movie Hidden Figures. I had seen the previews and I knew I would like it. It didn’t disappoint. Hidden Figures is the untold true story of three female African-American mathematicians— Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who worked for NASA in the early 1960s during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. These women played a vital role in the space program and were known as “human computers.” This was back in the times when computers were just coming into play at NASA (the new IBM filled the entire room!) and humans did all the calculations by hand. These ladies were the mathematical geniuses behind one of the greatest feats in history: the launch of astronaut John Glen into orbit.
Yet, these women fought incredible gender and racial barriers which even NASA wasn’t immune to. They were overworked and underpaid and not given the promotions they deserved. Others often took credit for their work. These women worked in segregated facilities at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia (which was known as the West Area Computing Unit). They had to use the “colored” bathrooms, coffee pots labeled “colored,” separate dining facilities, and separate water fountains.
On the drive home after the movie, I asked my husband if he had liked the film. He gave me a resounding “YES” but then went on to say that while it was a very good movie, that it made him feel bad. I knew just what he meant. He said it made him feel bad knowing that any human being could be treated as these women were treated. Women who had to bypass the “white” bathrooms right down the hall and walk a half mile to the “colored” bathroom which was in a completely different building and who had to drink from a coffee pot labeled “colored.” And who could only check out books in the colored section of the library and who had to sit in the back of buses (the colored section).
Overall, the movie was very inspirational and I was glad this “untold story” was finally told. But at the same time, I agreed with my husband. I too felt the exact feelings he did, and even a little bit ashamed. I hope both my grown sons will go see this movie. They will realize, as did I, just how far we’ve come.