LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – By now you may have seen or at least heard of the new movie “Hidden Figures.” It tells the story of three African American woman who helped engineer America’s space program despite facing racial and gender biases back in the 60’s.
But, did you know that Arkansas has our own version of this story? It belongs to the determined, confident, gifted, effervescent, and irrepressible Raye Montague.
Her story begins with a submarine smaller than the one you see docked in North Little Rock. It was a German submarine that was captured off the Carolina coastline. Soon after it was captured the submarine was put on tour across the country. That’s when the seven-year-old Montague saw it in Little Rock with her grandfather.
“And I looked through the periscope and saw all these dials and mechanisms and I said to the guy, ‘What do you have to know to do this,'” Montague recalled. “He said, ‘Oh, you’d have to be an engineer, but you don’t have to worry about that.'”
While that was an insult to her, the man at the submarine didn’t know Montague had a strong mother. Montague remembers her mother telling her that she had three strikes against her. She was female, she was black, and she would have a southern segregated school education, but her mother also told her that “you can be anything you want provided you’re educated.”
Growing up, Montague was constantly ridiculed for saying she wanted to be an engineer. Classmates would laugh and heckle her, but those kids didn’t know that 8th grade teacher Mrs. Irma Holiday would become a mentor to young Montague.