Flocabulary’s video, Katherine Johnson & the Human Computers, tells the true yet largely unsung story of a female African-American research mathematician who made instrumental contributions at NASA during the Space Race.
The video teaches students about Johnson’s major life events and achievements within the context of the social and political factors at play, sharing how she overcame various forms of discrimination to pave the way for future generations of students in STEM.
About Flocabulary & the Katherine Johnson unit:
Flocabulary is a web-based learning program for all grades and subjects that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement. Teachers in more than 60,000 schools have used Flocabulary’s standards-based videos, instructional activities and student creativity tools to develop core literacy skills and supplement instruction across the curriculum.
Johnson decided on a career in mathematics with interest in being a research mathematician, a path with many closed doors for African-American women at the time. The first jobs she could find were in teaching. At a family gathering, a relative mentioned that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later to become NASA, was looking for new people. They were recently open to hiring African-American women for their Guidance and Navigation Department. Johnson was offered a job in 1953, and she immediately accepted and became part of the early NASA team.
According to an oral history archived by the National Visionary Leadership Project:
At first she worked in a pool of women performing math calculations. Katherine has referred to the women in the pool as virtual ‘computers who wore skirts.’ Their main job was to read the data from the black boxes of planes and carry out other precise mathematical tasks. Then one day, Katherine (and a colleague) were temporarily assigned to help the all-male flight research team. Katherine’s knowledge of analytic geometry helped make quick allies of male bosses and colleagues to the extent that, “they forgot to return me to the pool.” While the racial and gender barriers were always there, Katherine says she ignored them. Katherine was assertive, asking to be included in editorial meetings (where no women had gone before.) She simply told people she had done the work and that she belonged.
Katherine Johnson helped get us to the moon & led the way for #STEM women. @Flocabulary #HiddenFigures
An African-American woman helped Apollo 11 land on the moon. @Flocabulary sings her unsung story#HiddenFigures
Learn how mathematician Katherine Johnson helped the U.S. bring man to the moon:
Katherine Johnson overcame discrimination to help bring Apollo 11 to the moon. Learn her story with @Flocabulary by clicking here.