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‘Hidden Figures’ author sells out museum book signing

Hidden Figures Book

Story by Trayonna Hendricks

HAMPTON, Virginia -- On Jan. 6, over 200 people wrapped around the Hampton History Museum for author Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures” book signing. There were so many supporters in attendance, young and old, all inspired and or curious about the untold story of three black women making a huge contribution to American history right here in Virginia.

Chere Flowers, a Hampton native, said, “This story is enlightening for black women like me who don’t know these things about our history. I had to come, especially with the event being here in Hampton at the History Museum, it made it even more appealing.”

Alan Marshall, another Virginia native, found it shocking that this story even existed: “I’ve been here for about 30 years. I’ve never learned anything like this when I was in school and I don’t think my daughter learned anything like this when she was in high school.”

Marshall came to the book signing in hopes of getting an autograph for his daughter, who graduated from Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake and interned at NASA. “Neither of us were familiar with this story until the film came out [but] I know it’s a lot of history here in Virginia,” said Marshall.

One person who did know about the so-called human computers fascinating, encouraging, and inspiring for young girls. I often share the story with students during outreach.”

She was not the only one there who wanted to share this story; many people were purchasing and walking around with more than three books each. Fifty minutes into the two-hour event the museum sold out of Shetterly’s books -- 200 copies according to the cashier -- and staff redirected buyers to Barnes and Noble, four miles away in the Peninsula Town Center.

Hampton History Museum Curator Allen Holmin said, “We usually only receive about 80 people for a book signing. Margot Lee Shetterly was an exception.”

Shetterly’s mother, Margaret Lee, was amazed by all of the support her daughter’s book received. With tears in her eyes she said “It’s overwhelming, the whole idea. All she wanted was to tell these women's story and it has just blossomed into so much more.” Filled with gratitude Lee, a retired Hampton University English professor, reflected on the story herself and said, “It’s a bit of history that up to this point hadn’t been told.”

According to Lee seeing the film will teach audiences many lessons about following their dreams and standing up for what they believe is right. “Another lesson in this movie,” she said, “is you should never give up on your dreams. You have to have enough courage to follow your dreams in spite of what’s going on around you.”

Lee hopes the story her daughter has shared inspires others to look into their history. “Ask your elders questions and write down or record what they say,” she said. “You never know what stories they have to tell.”

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.