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Granddaughter Of NASA ‘Human Computer’ To Speak In San Diego

This picture shows the Atlas rocket and the newly-named Mercury spacecraft ca...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: This picture shows the Atlas rocket and the newly-named Mercury spacecraft called Friendship 7 blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, February 20, 1962.

Granddaughter Of NASA 'Human Computer' To Speak In San Diego


Duchess Harris, co-author, “Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA”


The contributions of the black women of NASA's space program were hidden no more after the movie, "Hidden Figures," documenting the lives of three of the women came out last year. But there were more than three black women who worked on the math which helped get astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

RELATED: ‘Hidden Figures’ Reveals Work Of African-American Women At NASA In 1960s

The full story of the group is told in the book, “Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA.” The book’s co-author, Duchess Harris, is the granddaughter of Miriam Mann, one of the women who worked as a human computer at the NASA Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Her story was not depicted in the film.

"My grandmother of course had a different story because she was there during World War II," Harris said. "The women actually got there because Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president and we went to war and most of the employees at NASA were men and they were deployed. That was happening globally. What was happening locally was that Roosevelt signed executive order 8802 which desegregated federal jobs."

Harris, a professor and chair of American studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote "Hidden Human Computers" for young adults. The book also includes a curriculum about NASA's human computers and a website where visitors can view videos, lesson plans and even a blueprint of the segregated dining room where the woman ate.

Duchess Harris joins Midday Edition Monday with more on her grandmother's life and legacy. She will be sharing stories from her book Monday at 7 p.m. at the Copley Library's Mother Rosalie Hill Reading Room at the University of San Diego.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Astronaut John Glenn had traveled to the moon and back. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth. He did not travel to the moon.


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