Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/938/24802

From The Socialist newspaper, 1 March 2017

Film review: Hidden Figures

How black women fought racism and sexism at Nasa

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures   (Click to enlarge)

Sarah Wrack

Space rockets and the struggle against racism and sexism might seem an odd combination but Hidden Figures definitely pulls it off. It's an interesting, funny, and moving account - based on a true story - of three black women's struggle to reach their potential in 1960s America.

Katherine, Mary and Dorothy are mathematical geniuses.

They have already overcome huge obstacles. In an early scene, Katherine receives a scholarship to the only school in Virginia that offers education for black children beyond the eighth grade. They become human 'computers' on Nasa's Space Task Group, in the midst of the space race with the Soviet Union.

But they and the other black computers remain segregated from the white women performing the same role, working in a separate building.

As women, it is deemed impossible for them to have any more advanced role at Nasa - despite them showing time and again that they are some of the organisation's greatest minds. And throughout the film a mainframe physical computer is being installed, threatening to replace all of the women's jobs.

While not a film about the collective struggle of the civil rights movement or the general political situation in the US in the 1960s, neither does Hidden Figures ignore this context.

Cleverly interspersed throughout the film are real historical TV and radio clips of not only the rocket launches, but also events like the bombing of a Freedom Riders bus, and speeches by Martin Luther King Jr and President John F Kennedy.

Mary's husband, who is active in the civil rights movement, is initially hostile to her applying for the qualifications she needs to become an engineer - no black woman had ever previously been a Nasa engineer - saying: "You can't apply for freedom - it's got to be demanded, taken."

But the film is a reminder that while mass movements are the driving force of change, they are often mirrored by millions of individual acts of defiance - from the everyday to the extraordinary.

Mary goes to court to demand her right to take evening classes at a whites-only high school, which does allow her to go on to become a qualified engineer. Dorothy, who has been acting as supervisor for the black computers without the respective pay, turns the threat posed by the mainframe to their advantage.

She teachers herself, and then the rest of the group, computer programming - and goes on to become a leading expert in this at Nasa.

Katherine, whose calculation skills prove indispensable to the whole mission, repeatedly lists herself as co-author of reports she has worked on, despite being told to remove it every time.

The film gives glimpses - albeit sanitised versions - of the prejudice and abuse black people faced at this time in all fields. We see the backward opinions of several of their colleagues at Nasa.

But it also shows - again in simplified Hollywood fashion - the impact of experience, especially of working together, on tackling some of those attitudes.

Whether you have an interest in this period of social or scientific history, or just enjoy a classic Hollywood beating-the-odds story, this is a well-made and worth-seeing account of one small piece of the puzzle.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 1 March 2017:


Save #OurNHS

Build a movement to save our NHS

Reinstate the bursaries for student nurses now!

Grantham: 1,000 march for reopening of A&E

NHS England missing paperwork scandal

Heart centre closure consultation 'farce'

NHS v RBS


Socialist Party women

International Women's Day

Women's protests and walkouts around the world

Lessons of Russia 1917 for women's struggle today

Why I joined the Socialist Party

How black women fought racism and sexism at Nasa

Fight like Poplar's women councillors to change the lives of family carers


What we think

Byelections: Break with Labour Blairism wasn't on offer


Socialist Party feature

Debates on building the anti-Trump movement


Workplace news and analysis

"I worked from 9am to 11.30pm with only one break"

Warehouse workers walk out over pay and pensions

Derby teaching assistants continue fight against £6,000 a year pay cut

Picturehouse strikers blockade Leicester Square

Ford workers demand answers to Bridgend plant sourcing questions

Hearing into alleged rule-breaking by Unison ends

Leeds: Protest against tip stealing

Mixed Fleet cabin crew announce more strike days

RMT plans protest against 'driver only' Merseyrail trains

Southern Rail strike continues

May Day greetings in the Socialist


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Unions demand that Corbyn-supporting mayor protects services

Bristol cuts: the fight goes on

Tower Hamlets: There is an alternative, Mr Biggs

Spelthorne: we need socialist councillors

York University: socialists prevent far-right hate speech

Socialist Party Wales conference report

Northern region Socialist Party conference


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

The Socialist Inbox

What we saw


 

Home   |   The Socialist 1 March 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Film:

triangleInspirational account of young Marx's political battles

triangleWe can learn about struggle from the mass trespass of Kinder Scout

triangleVital depiction of fight for Aids prevention and treatment

triangleDarkest Hour: Not the usual flattery of brutal Tory Churchill

triangleTrump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

Women:

triangleWomen's Lives Matter launched in Leeds to fight domestic violence service cuts

triangleLiberation struggle is class struggle: the fight for Trans Equality

triangleNo to sexism! No to Trump!

triangleDefending women's services

Sexism:

triangleHow can we fight for trade unions that fight for women?

triangle'Made in Dagenham' Ford machinists pay strike 50 years on

triangleMoving look at school students' many perspectives on sexism

Racism:

triangleLondon Young Socialists: Fight Trumpism, Fight Racism

triangleFighting for rights for Windrush generation and other migrants

Black:

triangleWindrush: Whitehall demo shames Tories and Blairites

Review:

triangleDetermined UCU strikers: We're out to win!

Civil rights:

triangleThe life and legacy of Martin Luther King

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

4/7/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

27/6/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

27/6/18

Prison

Prison: life inside a living hell

20/6/18

Marx

Rousing, funny take on Marxism - from the man himself

20/6/18

Marx

Inspirational account of young Marx's political battles

20/6/18

The Socialist

Greetings from readers of the Socialist

20/6/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

6/6/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

6/6/18

Ireland

Rich, raw tale of financial crisis's impact on rural Ireland

6/6/18

Far-right

Alt-right gains exposure - but tedious clichés betray lack of ideas

30/5/18

Press

Aberfan disaster novel reminds us Grenfell was not an anomaly

30/5/18

Theatre

Sting's shipbuilders showcase class pride and change from below

30/5/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

23/5/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

23/5/18

Film

We can learn about struggle from the mass trespass of Kinder Scout

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999