Discovering "Hidden Figures" in Appalachia: Connecting the Book and the Film to the Region in the Classroom

West Virginia University selected Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures as its Campus Read for the 2017-18 school year, in large part because of the realization that one of the women featured in the book--NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson--grew up in White Sulfur Springs, WV and attended West Virginia State College before single-handedly integrating WVU when she attended graduate classes at the University in the summer of 1940. Another woman in the book, Dorothy Vaughan, grew up in Morgantown. Although Vaughan did not attend WVU, she, too, went on to become one of the African-American "computers" at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in Hampton, VA.

During the fall semester of 2017, my young-adult literature class read the young readers' edition of Hidden Figures and worked collaboratively to create a teachers' guide to the book aimed at middle grades, since all 8th graders are required to take West Virginia history. In this presentation, I will discuss the process the students and I followed to create the teaching materials, share some of the discoveries we made during our research into Johnson and Vaughan's West Virginia connections, present the final teaching materials, and show audience members how to access them.