Hidden Figures

by Margot Lee Shetterly

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Student Question

In "Hidden Figures", who knocked over the "colored women bathroom" sign and why?

Quick answer:

In "Hidden Figures", the "colored women bathroom" sign was knocked over by Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group, to end NASA's bathroom segregation. This action was prompted by Katherine's explanation that she had to walk half a mile to use the segregated bathroom, wasting valuable work time. This scene, however, was unique to the film adaptation and didn't feature in the original book.

Expert Answers

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Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group, knocked over the Colored Ladies Bathroom sign. He did it to end bathroom segregation at NASA.

Harrison asks Katherine why she's so often away from the group. After Katherine points out that she has to walk half a mile to the bathroom, he's forced to stop and think about the fact that every time she goes to the bathroom, it takes her an hour to walk to the colored toilets and back. Harrison has to reconsider his attitude toward her and the other people of color working at NASA.

Ultimately, he decides that the sign designating the colored restroom needs to be taken down. He walks the half mile to the bathroom, takes a crowbar and knocks it down himself, declaring that from now on, there will be only bathrooms. The toilets at NASA will no longer be segregated.

This scene was not included in the book; it was only in the film. In the book, the author explains that she used the white bathrooms and just never went into the colored bathrooms.

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