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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418

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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race was eventually adopted into a popular, financially successful 2017 movie, but it was first a nonfiction book written by Margot Lee Shetterly and published by William Morrow and Company. Shetterly researched the book for eight years. It focuses on NASA mathematicians called "human computers," specifically three African American women—Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan—whose contributions to the American space program had gone unrecognized and unheralded for far too long. It also introduces readers to Christine Darden, the first woman of color promoted to the US civil service's Senior Executive Services classification. The book hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction. In addition to the movie, it spawned a children's book and Young Reader's Edition for teens.

Here are some important quotes from the original edition of the book:

"In trying to provide leadership in world events, it is necessary for this country to indicate to the world that we practice equality for all within this country." —attorney Paul Dembling

"Sending a man into space was a damn tall order, but it was the part about returning him safely to Earth that kept Katherine Johnson and the rest of the space pilgrims awake at night."—Shetterly

"There’s something about this story that seems to resonate with people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds. It’s a story of hope, that even among some of our country’s harshest realities—legalized segregation, racial discrimination—here is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us." —Shetterly

"Being part of a Black First was a powerful symbol, she knew just as well as anyone, and she embraced her son’s achievement with delight. But she also knew that the best thing about breaking a barrier was that it would never have to be broken again."— Shetterly

"In the 1930s, just over a hundred women in the United States worked as professional mathematicians. Employers openly discriminated against Irish and Jewish women with math degrees; the odds of a black woman encountering work in the field hovered near zero."—Shetterly

"How could Katherine [Johnson] not be a [Star Trek] fan? Everything about space had fascinated her from the very beginning, and there, on television, was a black woman in space, doing her job and doing it well."—Shetterly