California Educator

November / December 2016

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Page 28 of 59

same name starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe. Christine Darden, their younger protégée who recently retired as a NASA engineer (see sidebar, page 29), is also a subject in the book, although she is not portrayed in the movie, which is set in the 1950s and early '60s. Their story might never have been widely known if Shetterly and her husband hadn't visited her hometown of Hampton, Va., and heard her father mention that one of her former Sunday school teachers was one of the first African American mathematicians at NASA. Shetterly seized on the idea for her first book and sold the movie rights before the book was even published in September. As it is, Katherine Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 from President Obama and is the subject of several video interviews by MAKERS, a woman's leadership platform that collects, records and posts videos about women who have made a difference. A building at the Langley Research Center in Hampton was renamed the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility on May 5, 2016, in her honor. She also received the NASA astronauts' "Silver Snoopy Award," 27 November / December 2016 Clockwise from above left, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, the Hidden Figures book, Katherine Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Vaughan with colleagues. (Courtesy NASA and The Human Computer Project.) "I ASKED PERMISSION TO GO [TO THE SPACE PROGRAM BRIEFINGS]. THEY SAID, 'WELL, THE GIRLS DON' T USUALLY GO.' I SAID, 'WELL, IS THERE A LAW?' " — KATHERINE JOHNSON

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