Home | About | Donate

The ‘Hidden Figures’ Jeff Sessions Wants to Keep in the Shadows


The ‘Hidden Figures’ Jeff Sessions Wants to Keep in the Shadows

Bill Moyers

As the Senate hearings for Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general ran into their second day, I kept thinking about the movie Hidden Figures, which my wife Judith and I saw three days earlier. The film is based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly about three African-American women in the early 1960s who lived in the segregated South while working on NASA’s first manned space missions.


This is just the kind of thing Albert warned about in the heavily ridiculed piece published here on CD before the election that argued under Trump, people would be scrambling to try to save the gains they'd already won.


Rather than suffer four years of Trump and his ship of fools, we would be better off encouraging a military coup.


One short note, about a term used. Moyers puts in quotes the word "computer" which seems to give the implication that calling a person a computer was somehow diminishing. I know not a lot of people knew of such occupations by this name so perhaps Moyers thought the name was about treating humans as a machine. Regardless, at that time if someone had a job as a computer it meant they were a person performing computations.

I was a computer, a "geodetic computer." I was trained to perform computations for geodetic surveys and later I was both a geodetic computer and a geodetic surveyor as I cross trained as a surveryor. We did have computers, the machines, and I worked with them, feeding them data from our computations and setting up field surveyor's measurements for computation on the machines. I also did hand computations with calculators and books of trig tables.

In today's terms the word computer automatically means a machine, except, maybe, to those of us whose job titles were "computer." But back then (I was trained in 1969 for my job by the Army Engineer School at Ft. Belvoir [TopoCom, what the army called a topographic computer], then assigned to my Air Force Squadron, the 1st Geodetic Survey Squadron) a person who performed computations was a computer (me). It was very technical work and the "computer" designation was anything but diminishing.


I think that's exactly what Moyers meant by putting the term in quotes; he's neither stupid nor at all given to "seems to give the implication." But let's not get distracted from the point he's making by the analogy.