A Message from Bob Woodson:
Lifting Up Today’s “Hidden Figures”
My recent article in the Wall Street Journal about a wildly popular book signing by the author of Hidden Figures was a real watershed experience that shocked even the sponsoring host at the University of Mary Washington. On a sunny afternoon, the auditorium where the event took place was quickly filled to capacity, as 1500 jammed into the main assembly hall. When all the seats were filled, people were standing and sitting in the aisles and along the sides of the balcony. Hundreds more were turned away by the fire marshal. The 100 books for sale and signing were gone in a half hour as were all those for sale in the local Fredericksburg book stores.
The event had all the drama of a rock concert. The massive, enthusiastic crowd in attendance reveals the thirst of the American people for stories of achievement against the odds. We must challenge the dominant narrative that emphasizes victimization and class warfare and uses angry protests and even violence against anyone who would dare to challenge the position of the elite’s presumed moral authority.
In sum, the black, female mathematicians who played a crucial role in the success of our nation’s space program in the 60s, at a time of legalized segregation and racial discrimination, were living proof that performance is more powerful than protest in countering disrespect.
The good news is that models that embody this maxim are not limited to heroes of yesteryear, and that truly heroic “hidden figures” are even now engendering virtual transformations in the lives of others and throughout their low-income communities. Because these committed neighborhood healers invest the totality of their time, resources, and energy in the work they do and do not tout their victories, they are largely unknown among the wider public and unheralded by the media. The Woodson Center was created to identify, support, and strengthen these “Achievers against the Odd.” We invite you to learn more about who they are, what they do, and what role you can play to strengthen their efforts.