Katherine Johnson, a “human computer” who calculated space flights at NASA during the pivotal space race days of the 1960s, was honored today in Hampton, VA. Johnson came to national attention last year when the movie Hidden Figures, which detailed her role and the roles of the many African-American women in NASA, smashed box office records. NASA recently named their new, $23-million, 37,000-square-foot, energy-efficient data center after Johnson.
Katherine Johnson was played by Taraji P. Henson in the Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures, which highlighted the difficulties black women experienced in NASA as a workplace, as the civil rights movement changed the culture around them. Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe played fellow black NASA workers Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson in the film.
As reported by WXIA-TV of Atlanta, GA, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, and Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly were on hand to honor the 99-year-old woman. Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.