Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly
Discussion Questions:
1. What are some reasons for wanting more mathematicians at Langley in the early 1940s?

2. In what ways was Melvin Butler, the personnel officer at Langley, progressive in his hiring practices? In what ways was he restricted by convention? Do you think he did the best he could under the circumstances?

3. What kinds of employment opportunities were available to African American women at this time? Why is the opportunity for a job at Langley so unique to Dorothy?

4. How did Dorothy handle the balance between her family life and work aspirations? What does this job mean for Dorothy in terms of social mobility?

5. Are the women who become “girl computers” held to a higher standard? Or do they hold themselves to one? Why or why not? In what ways is working at NACA progressive? In what ways does NACA stick to southern conventions?

6. How did the end of the war and V-J Day change working conditions in the U.S.? What did it mean for women, in particular?

7. s it surprising to learn that on the east side of Langley’s campus white laboratory staff didn’t know an all-black computing group existed? Why or why not?

8. How do the racial problems in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s change the perception of the U.S. abroad? How is this used as propaganda by the Soviet Union?

9. How was the fight for social equality affecting education? How would those practices affect Langley recruitment? In what ways is Mary’s transition to engineer significant?

10. In what ways does the soap box derby represent the breaking down of racial boundaries?

11. In what ways was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom significant? 12. Why did some people think the space program was a waste of money? Do you agree with their argument? What kind of accomplishment was it for Katherine and the workers of Langley for the Eagle to land safely during the Apollomission on the surface of the moon?

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