Skip to main content

After the Agora: Coffee Hour with Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the #1 New York Times Bestselling book, Hidden Figures, joined us for an Aggie Agora Coffee Hour on October 3. She shared about the process of writing and publishing her history of the African-American women “human computers” who worked at NASA, her experience with newfound fame, and her book’s impact. […]

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the #1 New York Times Bestselling book, Hidden Figures, joined us for an Aggie Agora Coffee Hour on October 3. She shared about the process of writing and publishing her history of the African-American women “human computers” who worked at NASA, her experience with newfound fame, and her book’s impact.

If you had asked Margot what she pictured herself doing in life at a young age, she would have confidently articulated her desire to work on Wall Street. Shetterly spent several years working in investment banking and never considered being a writer. However, she was advised to be okay with deviating from the plan she had for herself and to boldly explore other paths, which led her to the place she is in now.

“I chose not to shy away from the things that I had never done before, and to do new things that would inevitably cause me to fail,” she explained. “I have learned more from doing things that caused me to fail, but pointed the way to the next curve in the road.”

Shetterly seems to have been born to write Hidden Figures: her father worked as a research scientist at NASA and her mother was an English professor. Shetterly grew up knowing many of the women in the story, but didn’t realize that the story would be interesting to others. “All things conspired to create this story that people wanted at this exact moment in time,” she concluded.

Shetterly has most enjoyed witnessing readers’ reactions to the inspirational lives of the women in her book. Shetterly passionately described the influence she has observed Hidden Figures have on the African American community in particular. She witnessed a resolve that has been created to find stories like that of Hidden Figures – to tell the hidden stories of African-Americans achieving great things throughout our history.

“If you haven’t heard these types of stories yet, it’s your responsibility to tell it. I have seen this novel create an urgency on the part of young people to ask questions and value those stories – because they’ve been around. They just need to be told,” Shetterly explained.

These stories certainly have been valued in the Bryan/College Station community, as the participants at the Coffee Hour recalled the enthusiastic full-house Aggie Agora Hidden Figures movie premiere. One woman keenly thanked Shetterly for opening conversations about the reality of the past – even the harsh reality of segregation.

— Alix Poth, Aggie Agora Student Worker