Unpaid Labor Contribution, Hidden Figures, and the Saving of America

African American scientist, Katherine Johnson, made it possible for NASA's first trip into space.
African American scientist, Katherine Johnson, made it possible for NASA's first trip into space.

The history of the first 12 generations of Americans of African descent (1607-1865) is the history of saving America. The 13 original British colonies in the new world decided to become a new nation after 168 years of settlement. But that would require a war with England, the most powerful nation in the world. The colonies went to war. History tells us that the Revolutionary War would not have been won without the participation of Black soldiers. Unpaid Labor Contribution saved America.

Only 85 years would pass before African Americans would be called upon to save America again. During that time the nation would continue to struggle with the issue of slavery. Unpaid Labor Contribution would continue to be the foundation of the nation’s economic life. It would make the United States the most successful nation in modern history. But slavery was against everything the nation stood for in saying “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal...” The war that broke out over slavery threatened the survival on the nation. It was won because of the participation of Black soldiers. Unpaid Labor Contribution saved America.

In the 100 years that followed, there would be World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, and the industrial revolution. America was on the move and Communism in the Soviet Union, the world’s other great military power, was on the move too. Weapons had been developed in World War II that could destroy the world. Those weapons could be placed in space. The Soviet Union was ahead in the space race and America was afraid because America was behind. The Soviet Union had already launched a satellite and put two men into space while the United States was still on the ground. Who would save America now?

Then enters a small group of Black women employed by NASA. That’s the agency of the U.S. government in charge of the U.S. space race. Their government legally discriminated against them. They had to use separate restroom facilities and eat in colored only areas. Like all Black Americans in 1961, they were under constant threat. But they were so smart that they made it possible for the United States to get into space and ultimately put the first man on the moon. Getting ahead in the space race saved America.

Katherine Johnson computed the path for the Apollo 11 moon mission.
Katherine Johnson computed the path for the Apollo 11 moon mission.

That’s the story of Hidden Figures. It’s a film based on the true story of those remarkable women. The book Hidden Figures is written by Margot Lee Shetterly. In the 2016 film, Academy Award Nominee, Taraji P. Henson stars as, the real life African American mathematician, Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson. Mrs. Johnson did the mathematics for sending the first American into space. She did the mathematics for sending John Glenn into space in 1961 and for sending Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon in 1969. They depended upon her to check what the computers did. She was indispensable to winning the race for space. Insomuch, that she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 by President Barack Obama; and the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia is now named the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.

In times of war and in peace, Unpaid Labor Contribution has made the difference for our country. In people like Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson; Unpaid Labor Contribution is still saving America.