Author: Margot Lee Shetterly

America is for Everybody – Summary

In “Hidden Figures” Chapter 22, the US Department of Labor’s 1963 brochure “America is for Everybody” is discussed. The brochure showcased black employees at NASA and was created to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation’s centennial. The author notes that this contrasts with the history of slavery and racial oppression surrounding the Langley facility. Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph was also working towards progress by planning the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The chapter concludes with news of W. E. B. Du Bois’ death in Ghana and the passing of the torch to the next generation of civil rights activists.

The chapter also discusses the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the Civil Rights Movement and the United States. It explores the success of the black women who worked as computers at the Langley Research Center, despite facing discrimination and limited opportunities for advancement. Progress had been made, but there were still significant challenges facing black employees in science and engineering positions at Langley due to social segregation.

In the 1960s, Langley redoubled its recruitment efforts to support the space program and remove race-based barriers. Black colleges were targeted, and many of the new recruits were drawn to engineering for “economic and social mobility.” Mary Jackson helped new recruits settle in and even offered her home as a place to stay. Katherine Johnson met Christine Mann Darden at church in 1967, and Christine eventually got a job as a data analyst at Langley. She received help from former West Computers and settled quickly in her new town.

The chapter also highlights various civic and social activities Katherine Johnson was involved in, including her participation in a local sorority and her love for basketball. She was passionate about her job and worked diligently with her fellow engineers. They shared a bond over their work in the space program and grieved together after the tragic loss of three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire. Despite her celebrity status, Katherine remained modest and attributed her success to simply doing her job.

After the Apollo 1 fire, NASA aimed for a 99.9% success rate, or one failure for every thousand incidences, for every aspect of the space program. The success of the upcoming missions, including the lunar landing, relied on every cell of the program being individually superb and seamlessly connected to the cells around it. Katherine Johnson knew that if the service module’s trajectory was even slightly off, the astronauts could be stranded in space forever. The astronauts trusted NASA and were willing to risk their lives for the mission.

Katherine Johnson and engineer, Al Hamer collaborated on reports between 1963 and 1969, refining calculations and making rough drafts of diagrams for their reports. Katherine was determined to keep the astronauts safe on their round trip to the Moon, even working long hours and falling asleep at the wheel due to exhaustion. As each mission brought NASA closer to the Moon landing, Katherine knew that the complicated dance between the Moon, lander, and waiting command module was the most challenging step yet. She gave her best to her part of the puzzle, and the world would soon see if it was good enough.

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Questions:

In what ways was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom significant?

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was significant in several ways.

Firstly, it was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history, drawing an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people to the National Mall on August 28, 1963.

Secondly, it was at this event that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, which remains one of the most famous speeches in American history.

Thirdly, the march helped to raise awareness of the Civil Rights Movement and its goals, including the need for equal access to jobs and education, and helped to put pressure on the government to pass civil rights legislation.

Finally, the march marked a turning point in the struggle for civil rights, as it brought together a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, races, and religions to advocate for change, and demonstrated the power of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience.

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How did Christine Darden get to NASA?

Christine Darden started working at NASA as a data analyst in the Reentry Physics branch. She was offered the job after she graduated from Virginia State University with a master’s degree in 1967.

Christine went to the school’s placement office to apply for professor positions at other schools, but the placement officer gave her an application for a job at the government. Christine filled out the application and was invited for interviews. She got the job and started working at NASA. At first, she travelled from Portsmouth, but then she moved to Hampton after someone told her about a house for rent. She saw Katherine Johnson and other former West Computers regularly and became part of the black community in Hampton and Newport News.

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What is the risk standard for the Space Task Group? How do the astronauts feel about the risks they’re taking?

The Space Task Group had a high standard for success – they wanted everything to have a 99.9% success rate, with only one failure for every thousand attempts. The astronauts were prepared to take risks and even sacrifice their lives for the mission.

Katherine Johnson, who worked there, worked very hard to make sure the mission was successful. She spent long hours with her colleague, refining calculations and creating diagrams for their reports. She was so focused on the problem of keeping the astronauts safe that she even fell asleep while driving one morning. Even though it was risky, the team kept going and every mission brought them closer to their goal.

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Names Mentioned in Chapter 22

Al Hamer – an engineer who collaborated with Katherine Johnson on several reports related to the Apollo missions, including lunar orbits and emergency procedures.

Neil Armstrong – an astronaut who became the first person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

Buzz Aldrin – an astronaut who accompanied Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission and also walked on the Moon.

Gus Grissom – an astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Ed White – an astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

Roger Chaffee – an astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire along with Gus Grissom and Ed White.

The CIAA tournament: also known as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament, is a basketball competition for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the US. It has been held every year since 1946, usually in late February. The tournament includes both men’s and women’s teams from the conference and is very popular among fans and alumni. Besides basketball, the event often includes concerts, step shows, and other social gatherings.


AKA: stands for Alpha Kappa Alpha, which is the first historically African American sorority founded in 1908. The Newport News chapter is a local chapter of this sorority, which Katherine and Eunice Smith were a part of. The chapter organizes various events like an annual picnic and scholarship fundraisers. Katherine was also involved in other civic and social associations like the Peninsula League of Women and the Altruist Club.

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