Your new book, “Hidden Figures,” is the story of the black female mathematicians at NASA who helped put Americans on the moon. Why haven’t we heard about this before? Where I grew up, in Hampton, Va., we knew the story, and we thought it was pretty normal. They were people who were doing this exceptional job when you look back on it, but at the time, they were just ordinary people who loved their work. It was kind of nice to grow up in a place where that achieved such a degree of normalcy that people weren’t talking about it all the time.
But those women also deserve this big celebration happening now, too.Totally. It’s the responsibility of people like me to tell these stories, so that other people can see that this is normal. The black experience isn’t exclusively slavery/civil rights/Obama. There are certain stories that are automatically on the trajectory, and anything that’s not on that is hidden in the shadows. Meanwhile, most people live their lives between those dots.
Being able to have a spectrum of the black experience is contingent on the history that gets written about black Americans. If it’s just the firsts and the onlys, you never get the manys. Yeah. That’s a huge burden to be so hungry for these stories of excellence, and to have to hold them up, like a crucifix in front of a vampire. This story takes the pressure off any one woman having to succeed or fail. It doesn’t have to be: The entirety of black hope is riding on this one person and if they mess up, all of us are doomed.