Hidden Figures is a story about breaking the mould — about progress and about bravery. It’s a story that has been hidden for years but now has been heard by millions.
This past Tuesday, the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering partnered with the English Department’s annual Landiss Lecture Series to bring in author Margot Lee Shetterly to talk about her book, Hidden Figures, in honor of Black History Month.
Hidden Figures has been named the 2018-19 Nashville Reads book by the Nashville mayor’s office and the Nashville Public Library Foundation, as well as the Common Read by Lipscomb University’s LIGHT program.
Hidden Figures is a story about three women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson (formerly known as Katherine Goble), and the work they contributed during the Space Race to launch astronaut John Glenn into space.
Shetterly’s father spent his career at NASA Langley in Hampton, Virginia, where Shetterly grew up and where the story takes place. Her father worked with many of the women that she wrote about in Hidden Figures, including Johnson and Jackson.
In her lecture, she discussed the how the public, along with the publishers and producers who helped share her story, have received Hidden Figures, and how it became more than anyone could have envisioned.
The shocking response started fairly early in the works, as a film producer contacted her about turning the book, which was simply a proposal at this stage, into a movie.
“The response to this story has been beyond anything I could have imagined, that the publishers imagined, that the movie people imagined, that NASA imagined, and most certainly, that the women at the core of this story imagined,” Shetterly said.
She states that anyone who experiences the story has found something they can take away from it, which is something that has been rewarding for her. It was clear that telling this story to the world has left an impact on the author.
“Hidden Figures, in a very real way, is my origin story,” Shetterly said. “It’s both who I am, and now what I do.”
The lecture was well received by those who attended. Tumi Mfoloe, a junior Lipscomb student, says it was a powerful message that truly inspired her.
“She said that she didn’t think when she first started that something big would happen, but it did,” Mfoloe said. “So all we have to do is just start. I just loved that.”
Shetterly also noted that she has another story in the works that she wants to share with others as well.
“Hidden Figures has really uncovered this profound interest for me in history,” Shetterly said. “The research that I did for the story led me to finding so many interesting people.”
Those who have not experienced this story should seek out the book and read it. It’s an impactful story, and the women featured in it deserve to have their story told.
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb University via Instagram