“Hidden Figures” did not win an Oscar for Best Picture, which is not surprising. It celebrates individual achievement as a cure for racism and the early space program as a source of opportunity for people of all races and genders, contrary to the Hollywood narrative.

Hidden Figures” is a movie about three African American women whose efforts were crucial to the early space program. They were human computers, math geniuses who performed the calculations that NASA needed to send John Glenn into orbit and, later on, Neil Armstrong to the moon. While some of the situations, characters, and events in the movie were fictional and included for dramatic reasons, “Hidden Figures” renders a powerful message that should be seen by people of all ethnic backgrounds.

“Hidden Figures” offers another, long-overdue perspective on the relationship between African Americans and the early space program. The three women depicted in the movie did not find the race to the moon an imposition. They found it to be empowering. Apollo allowed people, especially these three black women, the opportunity to do things that no human being had been able to do before.

The early NASA was as near to a meritocracy as any institution could be during the Jim Crow era. Over time the space agency came to realize that if you could do the work, if you could advance the day that an American walked on the moon, it didn’t matter (very much, anyway) whether you were a woman or whether you were African American.

Indeed, a lovely scene happens in the movie when Kevin Costner’s character finds out the real reason that one of the women is absent for long periods. The only bathroom she is allowed to use is a distance away. Costner’s character takes a crowbar to the signs that labeled the bathrooms, ending a noxious symbol of Jim Crow at NASA years before it happened outside.

Nothing was going to stand in the way of getting to the moon first, certainly not a racist vestige from the past. The event never happened, but made for dramatic filmmaking. The separate bathrooms law was not enforced at NASA and the signs eventually disappeared quietly.

Even so, the women in the movie lived the cliché of having to work twice as hard to advance half as far, putting up with slights small and gross, and fighting for the right to help America land on the moon.

They won the respect of their white coworkers, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, by the content of their intellect.

Unfortunately the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences preferred to give its highest award to another, less well known film, “Moonlight” that, while critically acclaimed, was the story of a young African American growing up on the mean streets of Miami as a victim, all but powerless to change his destiny. That choice shows a lot about how Hollywood prefers to view race relations in America.

On the other hand, the cast of the movie brought out the real life hero of "Hidden Figures," Katherine Johnson, to enjoy the accolades of the attendees of the ceremony. That counts for something.