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'Hidden Figures' Tells The Story Of Black Women Who Helped The Space Race

An image of writer Margot Lee Shetterly
Aran Shetterly
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From the 1940s through the 1960s, a group of elite black women mathematicians known as "human computers" helped NASA put rockets, and eventually astronauts, into space. The women began working with federal aeronautical agencies at the Langley Research Laboratory during World War II, computing endless sets of data while enduring racial segregation and discrimination of the Jim Crow South. 

In her new book, "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" (William Morrow/2016), author Margot Lee Shetterly tells the little known story of the African-American women who helped with some of NASA's greatest accomplishments.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Shetterly about the racial climate of NASA during the space race and Shetterly's own experience growing up around scientists and engineers of color. Shetterly talks tonight at 7 p.m. at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.