After playing hidden historical figures on the silver screen, singer Janelle Monáe and actress Octavia Spencer celebrate the life and genius of another hidden figure, engineer Raye Montague, for breaking down racial and gender barriers in the Navy.
The Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” has opened the nation’s eyes to the forgotten story of the Black female human computers responsible for John Glenn’s launch into orbit. During the Monday, Feb. 20 telecast of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Spencer and Janelle Monáe thanked and honored Montague for her contribution to history.
“You are no longer hidden. We see you, we salute you and we thank you,” Spencer says.
Last month, Montague’s incredible story went viral after an interview with THV 11 News. When she graduated from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College, now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, with an engineering degree, she put the degree to good use and got a job with the Navy.
Initially, she was at the bottom watching her Ivy League-graduate peers run the 1950s UNIVAC computer next to her. Her luck changed when the engineers all got sick and she got the chance to run the UNIVAC all by herself.
For the next 14 years, Montague would become so skilled with computers, she would be transferred to designing and constructing ships.
“The admirals came to me and said, ‘Young lady, we understand you’ve got a system to design ships,’” she recalled. “And they said, ‘The president has given us two months. We can give you a month. Can you do it?”
“I brought that rascal in in 18 hours and 26 minutes,” Montague told reporters with pride.
Montague’s efficiency changed everything. Her brilliance earned her countless awards from the Navy and the U.S. government over her lifetime for revolutionizing the design process for all naval ships and submarines.