WASHINGTON – NASA announced Wednesday that the agency’s D.C. headquarters will be named after Mary W. Jackson, its first African American female engineer.
Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, started her career with NASA in a segregated computing unit at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a news release.
“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.”
The work of Jackson and two other African American women who worked as human “computers” at NASA was the subject of the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” The book was later made into a hit movie, with Jackson played by award-winning actress Janelle Monáe.
“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” said, Carolyn Lewis, Mary’s daughter. “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, who died in 2005, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019.
“Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building,” Bridenstine said Wednesday. “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 helped construct NASA’s successful history to explore.”