"Hidden Figures" — a movie about three pivotal Black female mathematicians at NASA — has earned over $84 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. Beyond introducing audiences to the movie's central characters, "Hidden Figures" is also inspiring legions of Americans, including comedian Leslie Jones, to delve deeper into Black American history.
In a hilarious Weekend Update skit for the January 21 episode of "Saturday Night Live," Jones got real about the impact she hopes "Hidden Figures" has on Black History Month.
"["Hidden Figures"] taught me something I never knew: Black women helped astronauts go to space," she said. "Why didn't they teach me that in school? Had I known that as a kid who knows where I would be?"
While Jones made it clear that she'd never want to be an astronaut — after all, "The Predator" comes from space — the "Ghostbusters" actress made an excellent point about the limited scope of Black history taught in schools.
"Here's my issue: We cram all of Black history into just one month," she said. "All we have time for is that George Washington Carver and all of his peanut stuff. We should learn all of Black history, all the year round, and teach it to everybody."
For instance, Jones just found that Black inventors created the traffic light (Garrett Morgan) and the mailbox (Philip B. Downing). Most Black Americans can relate to the lack of knowledge Jones learned in school.
The majority of Black history curriculums focus on Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, and nothing else. This is how figures, like the women featured in the film, become hidden.
Many scholars agree with the 49-year-old comedian: It's time to revolutionize the way Black history is taught in schools.
"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated," he said.
Now, however, cherry-picking the portions of Black history worth teaching troubles many scholars and educators. Instead, they want to include Black history throughout the curriculum, so it's not relegated to one month.
Zia Hassan, a fourth grade English Language Arts teacher in Rockville, Maryland, has made that integrating Black history his goal.
"I believe that having a month for black history compartmentalizes the issue, as if once the month is over we can turn our attention away from it again until the next year," he told The Atlantic. "It is important to discuss issues of race in the context of current events throughout the year, no matter the unit topic."
Many educators are pushing for race to be central in their classrooms.
Blake Simon, deputy communications director for the Afrikan Black Coalition, is one of the educators leading that charge. He told The Atlantic that Black History Month will never be enough because it erases the work of activists like Rosa Parks, who did more than refuse to relinquish her bus seat.
"Teachers often times painted Rosa Parks as only an activist who protested segregation on buses," Simon said. "When this is done, it erases the fact that Rosa Parks organized against sexual assault."
That's why he, like Jones, wants Black history to be celebrated every day.
"Black history should be celebrated every day, because all history begins with Black history. When Black history is not taught throughout the year, it is reinforcing anti-Blackness."
Leslie Jones would surely agree.