Baltimore to Serve as Backdrop for ‘Hidden Figures’ Author’s Next Book

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Author Margot Lee Shetterly reads her book aloud in Washington D.C.

The author whose work inspired the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” has set her sights on Baltimore for her next book. The work will chronicle the journeys of two well-known Baltimore families with different viewpoints of America in the 20th century.

According to the AP, Margot Lee Shetterly has signed a two-book deal with Penguin-owned Viking Press in New York. One of those two books will cover the Murphys, the Baltimore family that founded the Afro-American chain of black newspapers in the late 19th century, and the Adamses, a white philanthropist family who, starting with Prussian immigrant patriarch Henry Adams, helped build and shape Baltimore during the 19th and 20th centuries.

From Viking’s announcement: “Shetterly will bring the history of Baltimore to life through the success stories of the Adamses and the Murphys, also showing the contrasting challenges faced by those left behind by redlining, lack of economic opportunity and urban decay.…In doing so, she will bring new understanding to the history of a city that represents both the upside and the shortcomings of the American dream.”

The Murphy family’s Baltimore story began with John Henry Murphy Sr., according to PBS. Murphy was a freed slave who started the Afro-American in 1892 by merging his church newsletter with those from two other Baltimore churches. Eventually, it became the most widely circulated black paper on the East Coast, with as many as 13 editions circulating across the country with editor-publisher Carl Murphy at the helm.

Today’s Afro-American is a shell of its old form, but it still operates out of its headquarters in Charles Village.

The Adams family, meanwhile, descends from Henry, who’s credited with helping design the Bromo Seltzer Tower, buildings on MICA’s campus, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Belvedere Hotel, among others. His son, Otto Eugene Adams, was also an engineer known for studying a sustainable design for the courthouse and various churches, orphanages and schools around the city.

Shetterly wrote the 2016 book “Hidden Figures” about three black mathematicians who helped send John Glenn to the moon in the 1960s and assisted with other major accomplishments for NASA in its infancy. If her compare-and-contrast tale of the Murphys and the Adamses is any bit as illuminating and popular as “Hidden Figures,” we could soon be seeing their stories resurface on bestseller lists around the country.

Ethan McLeod
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  1. Fascinating — can’t wait to read it — “Hidden Figures” is a MUST-view film, and I recommend the book as well! Thanks, FishBowl!

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