The Oscar-nominated motion picture Hidden Figures shed light on the little-known story of Katherine Johnson, former NASA mathematician and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient. As we paused for our formal observation of Black History Month, the firm was honored by the presence of Ms. Johnson’s granddaughter, Ms. Katherine Michelle Sanders.
Ms. Sanders is a 7th grade science teacher at St. Peter Claver School located in New Orleans. Addressing our lawyers and staff, she provided unique perspective on her grandmother’s experience as a “human computer” for NASA (NACA), sharing that Ms. Johnson views all she did simply “as her job”. When asked how her grandmother feels about today’s technology, Ms. Sanders smiled and said, “She marvels at all it can do, but it doesn’t surprise her.”
Ms. Sanders spoke of her grandmother’s character and success as an African American woman, and how Hidden Figures touches on many of the barriers African Americans like Ms. Johnson faced while making historic contributions to our nation’s history.
But that was only part one of our Black History Month program. Ms. Sanders was followed by Dr. Renee Horton, the Lead Metals and Weld Engineer with NASA’s Space Launch System. Dr. Horton also referenced Hidden Figures when discussing her role as an African-American engineer for the space program. “When I watched the movie, I had chills knowing that I am a direct product of the things those women did.”
Dr. Horton touched on the reality that we still have diversity and inclusion issues today, but we need only look to history for a glimpse of how far we have come.
With unmistakable ties to remarkable moments in history, both of these women are writing a new chapter – teaching the scientists, engineers and leaders of tomorrow, and blazing the trails of present day adventure.
In many ways, we are reminded that we can all echo the words of Dr. Horton when she said, “Each day I tie my boots . . . and know I am walking into a part of history”.
Thanks to Ms. Sanders and Dr. Horton for a poignant reminder of the value inherent in our diversity. We believe our clients and communities are served by the experience, expertise, and perspective that are the byproducts of inclusion and diversity.