Mary W. Jackson was the first Black female engineer at NASA and played a huge role in helping U.S. astronauts reach space.
In a historic move, NASA has decided to name its headquarters in Washington, D.C. after the mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary W. Jackson. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made the announcement on Wednesday about the name change. Jackson was the first Black female engineer at the space agency and played a huge role in helping U.S. astronauts reach space. Her trailblazing efforts inspired the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on the book by the same name. The headquarters was formerly named Two Independence Square but will now pay homage to the aerospace engineer who also took on the role of a leader to ensure equal opportunities at NASA.
"Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology," Bridenstine said in a statement. "Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on 'Hidden Figures Way,' a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency's success."
Jackson had to go through the obstacles of not only gender bias but also racial segregation at the time. But she managed to successfully overcome these barriers and later went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. "Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible," Bridenstine added. Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, helped bring the much-needed attention to the contribution of three Black women to NASA and its legacy.
"We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson," Carolyn Lewis, Jackson’s daughter said. "She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA but throughout this nation." Jackson was recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1951, which later became NASA. Before this, she had accepted a job as a math teacher in Calvert County, Maryland after graduating from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in math and physical sciences.
Our headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African-American female engineer at NASA. She started in @NASAaero research and later moved into the personnel field, working to ensure equal opportunity in hiring and promotion. pic.twitter.com/eMandeaMyv— NASA (@NASA) June 24, 2020
"NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry," stated Bridenstine. "The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation. Over the years NASA has worked to honor the work of these Hidden Figures in various ways, including naming facilities, renaming streets, and celebrating their legacy. We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so."
Mary Jackson worked as a mathematician at @NASA_Langley, where she was promoted to become our first Black woman engineer.— [email protected] (@WomenNASA) June 24, 2020
Today we announced that our HQ in D.C. will be renamed the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters Building, in honor of her legacy: https://t.co/Nx8iGflzXZ pic.twitter.com/fDJNA0lTbM