diversity & race | November 24, 2016

“We need new heroes”—Time Features Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, the Untold Story of NASA’s Black Female Mathematicians

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, the incredible true story of the black women mathematicians who helped America win the space race, is the subject of a lengthy feature in the latest issue of Time. The book is an instant bestseller, the film a star-studded affair out this Christmas, and the story—one of science, innovation, race, gender, and unsung heroes—“defies what we think we know about American history.”

Time’s two-page piece kicks off the magazine’s Holiday Film Preview. But it’s Shetterly’s fascinating true story that sits front-and-center. 


Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, in a tight-knit community of black scientists who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center, including her father. It was from him that she first heard of the women who toiled behind the scenes in the 1950s and 60s, calculating launch trajectories and other computations for American milestones like John Glenn’s orbital flight. 


Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—portrayed in the film adaptation, respectively, by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe—were pioneers in their field, and until Shetterly's book, have gone largely unrecognized. “We need new heroes,” says Monáe, “And these women are new heroes for us.”

Hidden Figures | Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX


“It’s cognitive dissonance,” Spencer tells Time. “Black women being recruited to work as mathematicians at NASA’s southern installation defies what we think we know about American history.” And that’s what makes Hidden Figures so refreshing. As we begin to embrace diversity more thoroughly, we can seek it out, equally, in our past.


Grab a copy of Margot Lee Shetterly’s instant NYT bestseller, Hidden Figures, anywhere books are sold. See the film when it comes out, December 25th. And for a remarkable story of science, innovation, race, gender, and an update on the American dream, book Shetterly to speak at your organization’s next conference. Contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.