Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2017

Hidden Figures – This video is the remarkable true story of women who crossed racial and gender lines to contribute important work to NASA.

Katherine Goble. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are some of the many forgotten women, especially black women, who achieved amazing things in spite of the prejudice and road blocks thrown at them. All extremely brilliant women, they were the brains behind the launch of John Glenn into space in the 1960’s space race. Their work helped our country to put a man on the moon.

The movie is great and I hope you will see it. It does a pretty good job of telling what the women went through – early childhood and education, what they suffered in order to be accepted in society, and obstacles they encountered at work. The extras in the special Blu-Ray edition relate more of the many achievements of these incredible women. Here are a few highlights (some of the information obtained through my further research):

Katherine Goble Johnson

Katherine was a math prodigy who graduated from West Virginia State College summa cum laude at only age 18. She married and had three children. Sadly, Mr. Goble died of a brain tumor. Later she remarried.

Katherine was an aerospace technologist. She verified the computer’s numbers for John Glenn’s orbit around the earth in 1962, calculated the historic Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and worked on the calculations that helped bring Apollo 13 safely back to earth after it malfunctioned in 1970.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Dorothy received her training at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1929. She married Howard Vaughan and they had six children. In 1943, Dorothy went to work at Langley as one of the African-American women who were hired due to President Roosevelt’s executive order forbidding racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in the defense industry as he sought to fill the jobs needed for the war effort. Dorothy was one of the countless female human “computers” who did the math for the space industry.

Later when IBM introduced digital computers to replace the human computers, Dorothy was smart enough to figure a way to keep her job and the jobs of all of the other women. She taught herself and them the Fortran programming Language for the IBM 704 mainframe computers that NASA was installing. (Just look at that room full of machines in the movie and realize that your cell phone has more computing power than all of that!!)

Mary Jackson

Mary graduated from Hampton Institute with bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and physical science. Frustrated and unhappy about the discrimination against her in the work place, Mary almost resigned. However, her supervisor, Kazimierz Czarnecki encouraged her to train as an engineer. Mary had to fight racial prejudice but she successfully finished the course and was promoted to aerospace engineer in 1958 at the age of 37. She wrote many papers and studied data that helped to improve US planes. Mary achieved the most senior rank in the engineering department, but took a demotion to become a human resources administrator until her retirement in 1985. She spent her time helping other women and minorities to advance their careers.

One of the things that is downplayed a bit in the movies is the tremendous religious faith of these three wonderful women. They all just wanted to succeed and were willing to put up with the prejudice against them. In that era, blacks were often just happy to have a job. Their gratitude for what they had should put those of us who have never encountered their obstacles to shame. They are an inspiration!

It is finally time after 55 years that Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are recognized for their achievements. Though things have changed a lot since the 1940’s and 50’s, there is still a struggle for full racial and gender equality. The stories of these women will go a long way to erase the idea that women, especially black women are inferior.

Here is a trailer to the movie:

http://www.ign.com/videos/2016/08/15/hidden-f

 

 

Read Full Post »

Mae Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut. A bright and energetic girl, she also became a doctor and served in the Peace Corps. Mae is also a dancer, a teacher, a speaker, and an author.

Mae was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. Seeking better educational and work opportunities her family moved to Chicago when Mae was three years old.

A bright student Mae learned how to read before she went to school. She told her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. There weren’t very many African-American scientists in the 1960’s but that didn’t stop Mae. She loved astronomy and often looked up at the stars and dreamed. During her school years Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Mae was determined to go into space some day.

In 1977 Mae went to medical school. She had to choose between two careers – dancer or doctor. Mae decided that she could be a doctor and still dance, but she could not doctor if she was a dancer. The energetic and practical Mae went to medical school. Later when she got to go into space she proved that she could do both by dancing in the shuttle!! Mae took a poster of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with her on her flight.

When Mae became a doctor she wanted to help poor people and so starting in 1983 she traveled to Africa and served with the Peace Corps. She served in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In 1985 Mae returned to California to work at a hospital. This was when she pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut. She applied at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One year later she began her training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The first woman in space was Sally Ride and the first African-American in space was Guion Bluford. These astronauts were an inspiration to Mae as she trained. Mae learned about the space shuttle she would be working on. She had to get use to zero gravity and the limits of space. She would be doing scientific experiments on board the shuttle.

In 1987, during Mae’s training the space shuttle Challenger exploded killing all astronauts on board. This disaster was somewhat of a setback in the space program but Mae was still as determined as ever to be an astronaut. Mae was one of only 15 candidates chosen out of about 2000 applicants.

Another person who was an inspiration for Mae was Nichelle Nichols, who is famous for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.  In 1993, Mae Jemison starred in: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) – as Lieutenant Palmer, episode “Second Chances”. She was the first real live astronaut to appear on Star Trek.

On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African-American women to go into space on the space shuttle Endeavour. The crew stayed in space for over 190 hours (nearly 8 days). Mae’s experiments were used to see the effects of zero gravity on the human body.

In 1993, Mae left NASA so that she could get involved in other projects. She wanted to encourage young people to follow their dreams. She began an international science camp program for teenagers called The Earth We Share.

Other achievements for Mae Jemison include:

  1. The founding of the Jemison Institute. 1995
  2. College Professor, Dartmouth College. 1995
  3. The 100 Year Starship Program. Mae joined in 2011. The program’s goal is to help humans travel to the stars in the next 100 years.
  4. International Space Hall of Fame. NASA Space Flight Medal.
  5. Awarded the Doctor of Engineering (honorary) degree in 2007.
  6. Mae has also written articles and books including “Journey Through Our Solar System (True Books: Dr. Mae Jemison and 100 Year Starship) 2013.

 

Below are the links to two interesting YouTube videos with pictures and interviews of Mae Jemison that I think you might enjoy:

Mae Jemison: I Wanted To Go Into Space, July 31, 2014

https://youtu.be/B0vGDfuWhfI

Mae Jemison – Mini Bio, January 12, 2012

https://youtu.be/EgOaIKshbIU

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Through love and faith and determination I have been persistently facing obstacles, small and large, and I have made them stepping stones upon which to rise.          Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is remembered as an educator and an activist. Mary was born with three strikes against her – she was poor, black, and female. This indomitable woman who believed that “Love, not hate, has been the fountain of my fullness” spent her life building a better world.

Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 near Mayesville, South Carolina. This was during the period of ‘reconstruction’ in the South. Tempers often ran as hot as the weather and as the nation adjusted, unfair anti-black violence escalated. Through it all many black men and women maintained their faith in God. There was a strong belief that education would raise the status of black people in the perceptions of others and would result in better jobs.

Originally Mary trained at Moody Bible Institute (as it is called today) to become a missionary to Africa. It seems incredible to us now, but she was told that black women were not allowed to go on the missionfield. This didn’t stop Mary for long. Realizing that this setback was only a ‘stepping stone upon which to rise’ she put her heart and soul into educating poor black children, starting with girls. Mary believed that as the mothers in the homes, girls would grow up to have a profound impact on their children’s education.

Mary married Albert McLeod Bethune in 1898. They had one son. Sadly, due to disagreements that couldn’t be reconciled Mary and Albert ended the marriage in 1907.

Mary founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida in 1904. She started with only five students but the school grew to over 250 students in only a few years. Mary remained the president and leader until 1942. In 1923 the school combined with the Cookman Institute for Men. The newly combined school, called the Bethune-Cookman College, was one of the few places where African-American students could get a college degree.

Besides her important work at the school, Mary also became politically involved. She was president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years.  Mary worked with presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to improve life for African-Americans. She served on many committees and started up her own organization – the National Council of Negro Women. In 1936 President Roosevelt appointed her to be the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. In this position Mary was able to help young people find jobs. At this time Mary also served as an advisor to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1942 Mary retired from Bethune-Cookman college. She moved to Washington DC and lived there for several years. She was an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the early 1950’s, President Truman appointed her to be the official delegate to Liberia for the inauguration of their new president.

Eventually Mary returned to Florida to retire. She passed away on May 18, 1955.

Before she died Mary wrote “My Last Will and Testament.” She wanted to leave her people with a legacy of serving. Here are her ‘bequests’.

             I leave you love.
             I leave you hope.
             I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another.
             I leave you a thirst for education.
             I leave you a respect for the uses of power. (This power should be placed on the side of human justice.)
             I leave you faith.
             I leave you racial dignity.
             I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men.
             I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people.

Faith Courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility – these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving. As I face tomorrow, I am content, for I think I have spent my life well. I pray now that my philosophy may be helpful to those who share my vision of a world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood and Love.

 

In 1973, eighteen years after her passing,  Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1974, a seventeen-foot bronze sculpture commemorating Mary’s work in education was erected in Lincoln Park, Washington DC. It is the first statue ever dedicated on federal land to honor either an African-American or a woman.

 

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor in 1985.

 

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site was opened in 1994.

 

 

 

I found a wonderful video production of Mary’s life on YouTube. It is in three parts totaling a little over 26 minutes. It gives great historical background and contains many contemporary photos. I highly recommend it!!

 YouTube:

  1.  Mary McLeod Bethune Part One desktop, Jan. 24, 2009, Brian Stewart 9:42

https://youtu.be/CTEYr8cd1us

2. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Two desktop, 9:46

https://youtu.be/-6zHh9U8ZYI

3. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Three desktop, 6:44

https://youtu.be/encR1RbFk3w

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Born in 1892 in a poor black community in Atlanta, Texas, Bessie Coleman was not encouraged to follow her dreams. At the time, colored*** children were not expected to finish school, let alone have the ambition to fly. But nothing could stop Bessie. She worked hard and became the first woman of color to obtain an international flying license. She would go on to become famous nationally for her feats in an airplane as well as her fierce determination and integrity.

Bessie had to work to have the money to go to school. When her funds ran out she moved to Chicago to join her brothers in 1915. Her brother fought in WWI and returned home with stories of French female pilots. Bessie was intrigued and tried to enroll in pilot school. No one would take a black woman as a student.

She saved her money and took French classes. With the help of Robert Abbott, publisher of the most famous African-American newspaper in the United States, Bessie went to France. She was accepted at one of the country’s top flight schools. Though she was the only black woman in her class, she was determined to succeed.

Bessie knew that flying was dangerous. She saw planes crash, but that didn’t stop her. On June 15, 1921, Bessie received her international pilot’s license. She flew in air shows all over Europe. Then Bessie returned to the United States.

She was sure she could find work as a pilot with her prestigious license but few people were willing to hire black females. Bessie went back to Europe for more training. She learned how to do stunt flying and daredevil feats that would become known as ‘barnstorming’. She became famous for her aerial maneuvers – multiple loops, spins, barrel rolls and dives across the sky. By the time Bessie returned to the United States in 1922 she was quite famous.

Bessie had her first air show in America on Labor Day, 1922. The following year she was hurt badly in a crash. The indomitable “Queen Bess” was flying again three months later. Also nicknamed ‘Brave Bess’, she continued to cause a sensation with her flying for the next five years.

Bessie wanted to do more than just amaze people with her flying ability. She wanted her life to show the world what women of color could do. Bessie traveled around the country lecturing audiences in churches, theaters and schools about flying. She showed films of her work to encourage colored people to follow their dreams.

Using her popularity as leverage, Bessie refused to appear in places where there was segregation. She insisted for example, that white and colored be allowed to use the same entrances to the shows. She insisted that the show promoters treat everyone the same. Bessie also wanted to open a flight school for colored people.

Bessie’s story ended tragically and much too soon. In 1926, only 34 years of age, Bessie and another pilot, William D. Wills were flying to Orlando, Florida to attend an air show when Williams lost control of the plane. Bessie had unbuckled her belt so she could scout the area better and she fell to her death from 3500 feet in the air. Wills was also killed as the plane crashed.

Over 10,000 people came to pay their respects at Bessie’s funeral in Chicago. Black pilots from the Chicago area instituted an annual fly over of her grave on the anniversary of her death, April 30. This year’s flyover, 2017, will be the 38th.

In 1929 William J. Powell founded the Bessie Coleman Aero Club. In 1977 the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club was founded. Bessie is remembered as a woman who persevered against great odds to fulfill her dream. She is a great role model for young people to follow their dreams.

***At the time, black people were referred to as ‘colored’. The term ‘African-American’ did not come into being until a few decades later.

You can see some wonderful pictures of Bessie on the following YouTube sites:

1.Bessie Coleman on youtube.com

https://youtu.be/HPmMHuO5XSY

2. Bessie Coleman – An American Hero ( many great pictures! )

https://youtu.be/jYYy-dT4498

The YouTube site below has some video of that period of time showing some aerial stunts:

Bessie Coleman – Smithsonian Channel   VIDEO – “The First Female African American Pilot”

https://youtu.be/wckEiKzCBqc

A great little book, written for young readers is:

Bessie Coleman: Trailblazing Pilot, from Scholastic, Inc., Rookie Biographies Series, 2016. Written by Carol Alexander.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »