Incoming first-year students at the University of Mary Washington will learn in-depth about the crucial role a team of female African-American mathematicians played in the early days of America’s space program. The University has selected Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, as the Common Read for 2017-18.
Meanwhile, the Fredericksburg community will have the chance to hear the book’s author, Margot Lee Shetterly, whose work inspired the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. Shetterly will talk about her book at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, in Dodd Auditorium. She will be available to sign books afterward. Books are available for purchase in the University Bookstore as well as at the event.
The Common Read is a student’s first college reading assignment, with books distributed at orientation in June. As part of new student arrival in August, all first-year students join their classmates, upper-class students, faculty and staff in an engaging discussion of the book. Throughout the year, various programs and events carry through themes emerging from the reading. The program includes a lecture and campus visit by the author.
The inspiring true story has been largely unknown. Ironically, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden were responsible for some of NASA’s greatest successes in space at a time when Jim Crow laws ensured that NASA remained segregated.
Hidden Figures combines the rich intersection of the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the movement for gender equality, according to a press release from the publisher. A journalist and independent researcher, Shetterly also is the daughter of one of NASA’s first black engineers. Her insider’s knowledge, direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book lend it a depth and perspective that goes beyond mere research.
Hidden Figures draws on extensive research, oral histories, personal recollections, interviews and articles from the era to create an incredible picture of never-before-seen history.
Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation of the Humanities grant for her research into the history of women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville.