The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 03:19Z by Steven

The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Mental Floss

A. K. Whitney

Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1971. (Source NASA)

Today, November 24, President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom, considered the nation’s highest civilian honor, to 17 men and women. Among them is 97-year-old retired African-American NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, selected for her contributions to the space program, starting with the Mercury missions in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, through the Apollo moon missions in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, and ending with the space shuttle missions in the mid ’80s. Among other things, she calculated the trajectories of America’s first manned mission into orbit and the first Moon landing.

Awarding Johnson this well-deserved honor doesn’t just shine a spotlight on a single black female STEM pioneer. It also illuminates an obscure but important piece of history. Johnson was just one of dozens of mathematically talented black women recruited to work as “human computers” at the Langley Memorial Research Laboratory in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

They were so named because before machines came along, they crunched the numbers necessary for figuring out everything from wind tunnel resistance to rocket trajectories to safe reentry angles.

In fact, all of Langley’s hundreds of “human computers,” whether black or white, were women. It was an era when, as Johnson put it, “the computer wore a skirt.”…

Read the entire article here.

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NASA Mathematician Receives Medal of Freedom

Posted in Barack Obama, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2015-11-26 02:42Z by Steven

NASA Mathematician Receives Medal of Freedom

NBC News

Katherine G. Johnson calculated the flight path for the first American mission to space. The 97-year-old was one of 17 Americans who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday.

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President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 01:52Z by Steven

President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama named seventeen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House on November 24th.

President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor. From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:…

Katherine G. Johnson

Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson’s computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields…

Image of Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1980. (Source: NASA)

Read the entire press release here.

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Once unknown, story of WWII Latino Tuskegee Airman uncovered

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-21 02:43Z by Steven

Once unknown, story of WWII Latino Tuskegee Airman uncovered

Fox News Latino

Bryan Llenas, National Correspondent

Among the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first African-American military air squadron which heroically fought in World War II, was a little known about Hispanic pilot named Esteban Hotesse.

Born in Moca, Dominican Republic, but a New Yorker since he was 4 years old, Hotesse served with the Tuskegee Airmen for more than three years before he died during a military exercise on July 8th, 1945. He was just 26.

As a black Dominican, Hotesse was a part of a squadron credited for single-handedly tearing down the military’s segregation policies, while helping to change America’s perception of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era.

Enlisted on February 21, 1942 Hotesse was part of the 619 squadron of the 447 bombardment group known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Though his squadron never flew in combat, he took part in the battle for civil rights at home…

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At Last …?: Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Race & History

Posted in Articles, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-19 02:43Z by Steven

At Last …?: Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Race & History

Winter 2011, Volume 140, Number 1
Posted Online 2011-03-09
pages 131-141
DOI: 10.1162/DAED_a_00065

Farah J. Griffin, William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies
Columbia University

In this essay, Griffin brings to the fore two extraordinary black women of our age: First Lady Michelle Obama and entertainment mogul Beyoncé Knowles. Both women signify change in race relations in America, yet both reveal that the history of racial inequality in this country is far from over. As an Ivy League-educated descendent of slaves, Michelle Obama is not just unfamiliar to the mainstream media and the Washington political scene; during the 2008 presidential campaign, she was vilified as angry and unpatriotic. Beyonce, who controls the direction of her career in a way that pioneering black women entertainers could not, has nonetheless styled herself in ways that recall the distinct racial history of the Creole South. Griffin considers how Michelle Obama’s and Beyonce’s use of their respective family histories and ancestry has bolstered or diminished their popular appeal.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-11-19 02:04Z by Steven

The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan

Lee & Low Books
28 pages
11.1 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781600603631

Christy Hale, Author, Illustrator

Isamu was a boy of the East and the West. Born in the United States to a Japanese father and Scotch-Irish American mother, Isamu grew up in Japan. From his earliest years he felt the tug of his biracial heritage, never quite fitting in or thinking he belonged. Pleasure came, however, from the natural world. Color, light, and shadow. Earth, wood, and stone. Working with these forms of nature, Isamu found a way to blend his cultural divide. It was an exploration that became the cornerstone and spirit of his lifelong creative journey.

With lyrical text and luminous artwork, Christy Hale tells the story of the boy who grew up to be the multifaceted artist Isamu Noguchi. Guided by his desire to enrich everyday life with art while bringing together Eastern and Western influences, Noguchi created a vast array of innovative sculptures, stage sets, furniture, and public spaces. The East-West House is a tribute to the artistic beginnings of this pioneering modern sculptor and designer.

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An African King in Bolivia

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2015-11-18 21:54Z by Steven

An African King in Bolivia

The New York Times

David Gonzalez, Side Street Columnist; Lens Blog Co-Editor

King Don Julio Pinedo being helped by his son, Rolando Pinedo, the prince, into a royal cloak. Queen Angelica oversees the details of her husband’s royal dress. Don Julio is shy and does not feel comfortable dressing as a king. (Susana Giron)

Tucked away in an isolated part of Bolivia, there is a royal family whose existence is as surprising as it is humble. Despite his title, King Don Julio I and his wife live in a small apartment atop a small store in Mururata, Bolivia, where he farms coca leaves and other crops.

Yet this modest monarch can trace his lineage to West Africa, where his ancestor Prince Uchicho was enslaved in 1820 and taken by the Spaniards to work in the silver mines of the region. That era gave rise to the country’s Afro-Bolivian population, which sustained the tradition, which was largely ceremonial, said Susana Giron, a Spanish photographer who was intrigued by the life of the current king, who was born 73 years ago as Julio Pinedo…

…Ms. Giron said that a historian who purchased the old hacienda — where the Pinedos had taken the names of the slave owners — learned about the royal connection to Africa and set about to find an heir. His efforts, she said, led him to Julio Pinedo, who was named king in 1992.

“He is a symbolic figure,” she said. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”

The history of Africans in Latin America has been coming more and more to the fore in recent years. In Bolivia, it was not until recently that they were even counted in the national census, with their 2012 population pegged at some 23,000 in a country of 10 million. They still face discrimination and socioeconomic obstacles

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Amber Guild of Collins: Call Out the Elephant in the Room

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-17 19:32Z by Steven

Amber Guild of Collins: Call Out the Elephant in the Room

The New York Times

Adam Bryant, Corner Office Columnist and Deputy Science Editor

This interview with Amber Guild, president of Collins, a brand consultancy, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What were some early influences for you?

A. I grew up in two different homes. I had my father’s home in New Jersey and my mother’s home in New York City.

Tell me more about your parents.

They never married. They became good friends, had me and then they separated. My dad later moved out to New Jersey with my stepmom, and my mother was in New York. Both were very politically active. I probably went to my first demonstration before I could walk. We were always protesting something or other at a rally.

And I grew up in these two different cultural households. My dad’s household was all white, and my mother and my two older sisters are black. I’m the only one who’s biracial. So I found myself always being a bridge in terms of culture and different classes.

In my home in the city, we were poor. My dad’s household was working-class, but there was always food on the table. Growing up with those two very distinct experiences started to form my relationship with the world and with people in different communities, and seeing both differences and similarities.

Then, to top it all off, I ended up getting a scholarship to boarding school in Connecticut when I was 14, which was another radically different culture and experience…

Read the entire interview here.

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Lib at Large: Documentary tells odd story of Korla Pandit, ‘godfather of exotica’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-11-12 16:07Z by Steven

Lib at Large: Documentary tells odd story of Korla Pandit, ‘godfather of exotica’

Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael, California

Paul Liberatore

Marin has been home to some fascinating characters over the decades, but probably no one has been as mysterious and exotic as Korla Pandit, an organ-playing, turban-wearing sex symbol of 1950s daytime TV.

In a 1975 article in the Independent Journal, reporter Ernest Murphy described Pandit as “a puzzle inside an enigma wrapped in a turban.”

While housewives swooned over his doe-eyed gaze on the music show he starred in for KGO-TV in San Francisco, he lived with his wife and two children in the erstwhile Hall McAllister mansion in Kentfield.

He said the 70-year-old house reminded him of his privileged childhood in New Delhi as the son of a Brahmin priest father and a French opera singer mother. The grand old house enhanced his mystique as “the godfather of exotica,” but it was a kind of false front, a facade. He was only renting it temporarily before its owner had it torn down.

Two years after Pandit’s 1998 death in a Petaluma hospital at age 77, journalist R.J. Smith exposed his true identity in a 2001 article in Los Angeles Magazine, “The Many Faces of Korla Pandit.” His fans were shocked to learn that their swami dream boat wasn’t born in New Delhi, far from it. He wasn’t even Indian. He was a light-skinned African American, born in Columbia, Missouri, in a family of seven children. His father was pastor of the largest black church in town and his mother was of Creole heritage. His real name was John Roland Redd. He attended a segregated school in Missouri and showed talent as a pianist and later as an organist…

Read the entire article here.

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Race and the Modern Exotic: Three ‘Australian’ Women on Global Display

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, Passing, Women on 2015-11-11 03:01Z by Steven

Race and the Modern Exotic: Three ‘Australian’ Women on Global Display

Monash University Publishing
October 2011
180 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781921867125
eBook ISBN: 9781921867132

Angela Woollacott, Manning Clark Professor of History
The Australian National University

Annette Kellerman, Rose Quong and Merle Oberon were internationally successful ‘Australian’ performers of the first half of the twentieth century. Kellerman was a swimmer, diver, lecturer, and silent-film star, Quong an actor, lecturer and writer who forged a career in London and New York, and Oberon one of the most celebrated film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, first in London and then Hollywood.

Through her international vaudeville performances and film roles, Kellerman played with the quasi-racial identity of South Sea Islander. Quong built a career based on her own body, through a careful appropriation of Orientalism. Her body was the signifier of her Chinese authenticity, the essentialist foundation for her constructed, diasporic Chinese identity. The official story of Oberon’s origins was that she was Tasmanian. However, this was a publicity story concocted at the beginning of her film career to mask her lower-class, Anglo-Indian birth. Despite anxious undercurrents about her exoticism, Australians were thrilled to claim a true Hollywood star as one of their own.

These three women performers created newly modern, racially ambiguous Australian femininities. Racial thinking was at the core of White Australian culture: far from being oblivious to racial hierarchies and constructions, Australians engaged with them on an everyday basis. Around the world, ‘Australian’ stars represented a white-settler nation, a culture in which white privilege was entrenched, during a period replete with legal forms of discrimination based on race. The complex meanings attached to three successful ‘Australian’ performers in this period of highly articulated racism thus become a popular cultural archive we can investigate to learn more about contemporary connections between race, exoticism and gender on the global stage and screen.

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