Katherine Johnson: Hero to Women, African Americans, and America

November 13, 2017
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As an African American woman in a field overpowered by white men, Katherine Johnson defeated all social norms by becoming one of the first women of color to not only work for NASA but help America accomplish the impossible. With her superior knowledge and computing abilities, Johnson made it seem foolish to ignore the benefit she could bring to NASA’s space exploration team. Though she endured many obstacles due to her upbringing, she fought for respect and change at a time when women of color were so highly scrutinized. Katherine Johnson proved herself to be a modern hero through her quest for fame during the space race, strength in fighting racial discrimination, and self-confidence as a woman in a field dominated by men who saw her as inferior.


Katherine Johnson exhibited a quest for fame through her many contributions to NASA’s space exploration team during the space race. Know as the human computer, Johnson worked as a mathematician who came up with many of the formulas and equations required to help the first American man orbit the earth. She and her team worked tirelessly day and night until they accomplished their goal. Johnson demonstrates her quest for fame through the sacrifices she made for her job so that she could bring pride to her country. Because of her great contributions to forwarding her team's efforts, Johnson was also highly esteemed and trusted by John Glenn. In many instances, Glenn required that Johnson check the math of new calculators at the time. Often, Johnson saw errors in the calculations of machines, and for this she was highly trusted by Glenn. Because of this dynamic she had with Glenn and her abilities that named her the “human computer,” Johnson was able to make many large mathematical contributions to space exploration and meet her goals that brought pride and fame to America.
As Katherine Johnson worked to make her unequivocal contributions to America, she also had to be extremely strong in order to battle discrimination and disrespect because she was an African American. Because she beat these odds and still earned her place on NASA’s team at a time where segregation and racial prejudice were all too common, Johnson demonstrates heroism through here undefinable strength. In a field that was often reluctant to hire women, let alone women of color, Johnson found herself battling many obstacles due to something as simple as her skin color. For example, the building that Johnson originally worked in was so presumptuously set up, that there was not even a restroom she was allowed to use in the building. Because of this situation, Johnson had to walk over a mile multiples times a day just so that she could use a restroom. Often times, she had to run through the rain and bring her work with her. Even though she was discriminated against and forced into such an unreasonable predicament, Johnson did not let it break her spirit. Instead, she spoke up about what she was forced to do and brought a change in her workplace. After all her hard work and dedication, her boss found it ridiculous that she be required such a foolish task and completely desegregated the bathrooms of the research building she was working in. When Johnson had injustice handed to her, she did not let it break her down, but instead fought for the change that she need. She was strong through the many instances where she had to turn the other cheek to racism and even stronger when she fought for and earned the change she deserved.


Lastly, Katherine Johnson proved herself a hero through the self confidence she demonstrated when faced with pressure to fit into gender roles. Unlike many women that remained homemakers at the time, Johnson had ambitions and goals exceeding those of many men. Although she was just as smart as, if not smarter than, many of the men she worked around, Johnson still was looked down on for being a woman where she worked at NASA. All other women she worked around were white and had no more authority than a receptionist, so the men she worked with were hesitant to accept her position. However, Johnson wanted more authority and direct involvement in changes and decisions made daily regarding the mission that affected her work as a mathematician. Often she had to start over because she was working with old information that had been changed, so Johnson asked to be included in the meetings where all the information was exchanged. Because no woman had ever been allowed to even observe the meetings before, her request was originally seen as ridiculous. However, Johnson had the confidence to persist and ignore the limitations forced upon her because she was female. Due to her relentless requests and knowledge that could not be wasted, Johnson was eventually was allowed to attend such meeting where she did much more than observe. Because she defeated the gender roles she was given and remained confident and persistent after being told no, Johnson proved herself to be a hero of her time.


Katherine Johnson proved her heroism throughout her lifetime by exhibiting a quest for fame for her country, the strength to stand up to racism, and the self confidence to thrive in a workplace previously dominated by white men. She did not let her race limit what she knew she was capable of. Johnson knew her worth and importance at NASA, so she fought for what she deserved by speaking out for desegregation and diminishing gender roles for women. Her quest for fame, strength, and self confidence show how heroic she truly was. Moreover, Katherine Johnson is a hero because she set an example that inspires young women today and teaches them not to limit themselves.






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