In conjunction with our new exhibition, Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11—the first manned mission to land on the moon—the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, in partnership with WCVE PBS, welcomes New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures Margot Lee Shetterly for a special program. She will discuss the historical nexus of race, gender, and technology in America’s aerospace industry that inspired her award-winning book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.
Shetterly will be joined by Dinwiddie County native, Dr. Gladys West, the “hidden figure” whose research calculating the Earth’s shape during her 42-year career at the Dahlgren Naval Support Facility became the basis for Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that affects so many aspects of daily life in the 21st century. Together, Shetterly and West will discuss the profound, and often unacknowledged, ways that women of color have contributed to American innovation.
VMHC will also present Margot Lee Shetterly with the Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography. This award is supported by the Richard Slatten Endowment for Virginia History and the Slatten-MacDonald Fund, both funds administered by the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond.
Please note that this event will not be recorded, so be sure to get your tickets to attend!
About Gladys West
Dr. Gladys West’s trailblazing work as a mathematician transformed modern life. She was born into a family of farmers in rural Dinwiddie County. Determined to escape the tobacco field or factory, she became high school valedictorian in order to win a scholarship to Virginia State University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. In 1956, West joined the Naval Support Facility in Dahlgren, Virginia, where she was the second black woman ever hired and one of only four black employees. During her 42-year career, she helped develop GPS technology and received numerous accolades within her field. Like other “hidden figures” in the defense and aerospace industries, she did not receive outside recognition until much later. In 2018, Gladys West was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame, and the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution commending her achievements.
About Margot Lee Shetterly
Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of the groundbreaking and award-winning Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which shines much-needed light on the bright, talented, and wholly underappreciated geniuses of the institution that would become NASA. She is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Shetterly is a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This event is co-presented by Science Matters / WCVE PBS. WCVE invites you to explore CHASING THE MOON, a new PBS/American Experience film that reimagines the Great American Space Race to the moon for a new generation. It premieres on WCVE/PBS on July 8, 2019. Visit ideastations.org/chasingthemoon for more information and additional broadcast times.