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NASA headquarters to be renamed for Mary W. Jackson, one of its ‘Hidden Figures’

Mary W. Jackson stands in a white coat holding a clipboard.
NASA is renaming its Washington, D.C., headquarters after Mary. W. Jackson, its first African American female engineer and a subject of the movie “Hidden Figures.”
(NASA)

NASA announced Wednesday that its headquarters will be named after one of its history-making engineers.

In a news release, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters building will be named after Mary W. Jackson, its first African American female engineer.

“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,” the statement continued. “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. 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.”

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Jackson graduated with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton University, a historically Black university, in 1942. She was a mathematician and aerospace engineer who started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. In 1951, she was recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was succeeded in 1958 by NASA, where she worked until her retirement in 1985.

She worked along with two other history-making Black mathematicians, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, during the space race. The women’s stories were told in Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 nonfiction book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.” That same year it was adapted into a motion picture, “Hidden Figures,” which was nominated for three Academy Awards. Jackson was portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the film.

Jackson died in 2005 at 83. In 2019, President Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, which posthumously honored Jackson, Johnson, Vaughan and Christine Darden, who joined NASA’s pool of “human computers” in 1967.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” Carolyn Lewis, Jackson’s daughter, said in a statement on behalf of her family. “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.”


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