NASA this week unveiled plans to rename its Washington headquarters in honor of Mary W. Jackson, the space agency’s first Black female engineer.
“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,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement on the agency’s website.
The new name takes effect immediately.
“NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry,” Bridenstine said. “The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation.”
Jackson, who began her career as a mathematician, was recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1951, which was succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) seven years later. That same year, she was promoted to aerospace engineer.
The Virginia native, who died in 2005 at age 83, was featured prominently in Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
The book was adapted into the hit 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer. Monáe, who played Jackson in the movie, happily responded to the news on Twitter.
The street in front of the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters is named Hidden Figures Way.
Jackson’s daughter, Carolyn Lewis, said the family was “honored” by the tribute.
“She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed,” Lewis said in a statement, “not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”
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