“Hidden Figures” is an award-winning movie about three African-American women whose work as mathematicians helped make this country’s space program a success during the 1960s.
It is billed as an untold story, and Wayne O’Bryant believes there are many more like it from the nation’s past that have been ignored.
The Graniteville resident’s mission is to make sure they don’t continue to be overlooked.
“There are these gaps, and when you fill those gaps in with information, then you get a clearer picture of what exactly happened,” O’Bryant said.
One way in which O’Bryant spreads the word about the contributions of African-Americans and their roles in important events is through his books.
They include “Flower in the Sand: The History & Heritage of Bettis Academy,” which is about a school near Trenton where thousands of African-Americans were educated before desegregation.
O’Bryant also is the author of “In the Footprints of a Giant: The Vesey Connection,” which focuses on Charleston in the 1820s and Denmark Vesey’s plan for a major slave revolt.
In “The Exhumation of Hamburg Incident,” which O’Bryant hopes to publish later this year, the subject is the bloody massacre caused by a white mob attacking a black militia in 1876 in Aiken County.
In addition to writing books, O’Bryant serves a Heritage Council of North Augusta board member, conducts black history tours, gives speeches, assists people with genealogical research and uncovers little-known facts for documentary films, museum exhibits and historic markers.
“He is one of the few people pursuing what he does, and it is his passion,” said Brenda Baratto, executive director of the Aiken County Historical Museum. “It’s his vocation as well as his avocation. He is a go-to person for me, and it’s always a pleasure to work with him.”
O’Bryant, 56, was born in Charleston in the midst of the civil rights movement. In his family were three generations of educators, and one of O’Bryant’s great-grandmothers, Fannie Greenwood Quarles, was determined that he would start learning about the accomplishments of African-Americans at an early age.
“My mother hired a babysitter to take care of me while she was teaching in an elementary school,” O’Bryant said. “One day, she left something at the house and came back. The babysitter was sleeping, and I was gone. When she asked where I was, the babysitter said, ‘Every time you leave, your grandmother comes and takes the baby. She tells me I might as well go to sleep because the baby’s not coming back until right before you get home from work.’”
O’Bryant’s mother, Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook, paid the babysitter for two months of work, sent her away and officially made Quarles O’Bryant’s caretaker.