Critically evaluate the racism and discrimination of the fil…

Title: A Critical Evaluation of Racism and Discrimination in the Film “Hidden Figures”


The film “Hidden Figures” (2016) directed by Theodore Melfi portrays the untold story of three brilliant African-American women mathematicians who made significant contributions to the early space technology advancements at NASA. While the film highlights the achievements of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, it also provides a platform to discuss and critically analyze the prevalent racism and discrimination present during that era. This essay aims to critically evaluate the depiction of racism and discrimination in “Hidden Figures,” examining its historical accuracy and the impact it had on the lives of the characters.

Historical Context:

To comprehend the film’s portrayal of racism and discrimination, it is imperative to understand the historical context in which the events took place. “Hidden Figures” is set during the 1960s amidst the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race. These were transformative times where progress and innovation collided with deeply entrenched racial prejudices. African Americans faced systemic discrimination and segregation, limiting access to education, employment, and societal opportunities. It is against this historical backdrop that the film explores the protagonists’ struggles to overcome racial barriers in a predominantly white and male-dominated workplace.

Racism and Discrimination – Depiction and Analysis:

The film “Hidden Figures” offers a compelling portrayal of racism and discrimination through various narrative elements and instances. From the onset, the audience witnesses the profound segregation that existed in society, with separate restrooms, drinking fountains, and workspaces for African Americans. The depiction of these dehumanizing practices effectively evokes a sense of profound injustice and inequality. The film creates a stark visual juxtaposition, highlighting the stark contrast between the technological advancements in the space program and the oppressive treatment faced by the women of color who played a vital role in facilitating those advancements.

The characters’ experiences in “Hidden Figures” serve as powerful representations of the struggles faced by African Americans, particularly women, during this epoch. The central character, Katherine Johnson, grapples with prejudice as she is initially excluded from important meetings, her work being undermined due to her race and gender. The film illustrates Johnson’s perseverance as she transcends these barriers, showcasing her brilliance as a mathematician and her indispensable contributions to the Apollo 11 mission.

Similarly, Dorothy Vaughan faces discrimination when she is denied the opportunity for professional advancement, with white supervisors overlooking her talents and potential. Nevertheless, she manages to carve her own path, ultimately becoming NASA’s first African American supervisor. The portrayal of Vaughan’s tenacity and resilience highlights the strength of character required to confront and overcome institutionalized racial discrimination.

Mary Jackson’s story further exemplifies the gendered racism prevalent in society during that period. Denied the opportunity to become an engineer due to her race, Mary challenges the status quo by petitioning the courts to allow her access to segregated educational programs. Her story exposes the inherent biases and systemic barriers faced by African American women who aspired to attain positions traditionally reserved for white men.

Impact on Characters and Society:

The film effectively captures the emotional toll that racism and discrimination took on the characters. The repeated instances of marginalization, microaggressions, and exclusion depict the psychological and emotional strain experienced by the protagonists. These experiences not only hinder their professional growth but also erode their sense of self-worth and confidence. By depicting how the characters navigate and counteract racism, the film emphasizes the spirit of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

The impact of racism and discrimination depicted in “Hidden Figures” goes beyond the individual narratives, providing commentary on the broader implications for society. The film underscores the immense talent and brilliance that was untapped due to systemic racism. Moreover, it sheds light on the importance of diversity and inclusivity in fostering innovation and progress. By championing the accomplishments of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the film challenges the prevailing narrative that only white men played significant roles in scientific and technological advancements during that time.


In conclusion, “Hidden Figures” offers a powerful portrayal of racism and discrimination prevalent in 1960s America. The film highlights the struggles faced by the three African American female protagonists, shedding light on the systemic racism that prevented them from fully realizing their potential. Through their resilience and determination, the film illuminates the critical importance of diversity and inclusivity in achieving scientific and societal progress. By critically evaluating the depiction of racism and discrimination in “Hidden Figures,” we gain a deeper understanding of the historical context and the impact it had on the lives of the characters.