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Trailblazing Women: reading informational text; Katherine Johnson 7

CCSSELA: RI.7.1, RI.7.2, RI.7.3, RI.7.4


Read the passage.

A Spectacular Voyage

  1. Katherine Johnson reached for the stars long before she helped send humans into space.
  2. Born on August 26, 1918, in West Virginia, Johnson had a gift for numbers. As Johnson later described, she spent her life counting—counting the steps she walked, the dishes she washed. “Anything that could be counted, I did,” she once said.
  3. School came easily for Johnson, and she completed eighth grade by the age of 10. After that, she couldn’t continue learning locally because her county denied African American students access to secondary education. Johnson’s father, Joshua, moved the family 120 miles away so she could attend high school. By 18, she graduated with honors from West Virginia State College, receiving degrees in mathematics and French. She then went on to teach these subjects at a public school.
  4. After teaching for many years, one job posting changed the arc of her life. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was looking to hire women to fill unique positions. The job title: Computer. Based at Langley Research Center, these “human calculators” checked the math done by NACA’s male engineers and mathematicians. Johnson’s sharp intellect and resourcefulness were quickly recognized at Langley; she was promoted after only two weeks.
  5. Nonetheless, Johnson faced barriers at the agency. At the time, many workplaces weren’t integrated, and Johnson and her African American colleagues were segregated within an area of Langley named “West Computers”. Regardless, she steadfastly asked questions and made her voice heard.
  6. In 1958, NACA began to focus more on space travel, and the agency was newly dubbed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Johnson’s career flourished at NASA. In 1961, Johnson plotted astronaut Alan Shepard’s path into space. Then in 1962, Johnson helped astronaut John Glenn to be the first American to orbit the Earth. Even though NASA had started using electronic computers, Johnson was the one to double-check the machines’ calculations before blast-off.
  7. Additionally, Johnson contributed to Apollo 11’s milestone 1969 moon landing. She also helped Apollo 13 return safely home after an equipment malfunction. Later in her career, Johnson worked on calculations for NASA’s space shuttles and satellites.
  8. Even with such stellar contributions, many people in America didn’t know Johnson’s name until long after her retirement. In 2016, writer Margot Lee Shetterly published Hidden Figures, a chronicle of Johnson and two of her fellow mathematicians’ work at NASA. Later that year, Shetterly’s bestselling book was turned into a movie of the same name. Finally, the whole world saw the magnificent trajectory of Katherine Johnson’s career.
How did Katherine Johnson help to pioneer human space travel, according to the text?
Choose 1 answer:
Choose 1 answer: