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NASA renames D.C. headquarters for 'Hidden Figure' Mary W. Jackson

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Posted at 10:39 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 22:39:04-04

(WTXL) — NASA announced Wednesday that the agency’s headquarters in Washington D.C. 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.”

For nearly two decades, Jackson authored or co-authored research and numerous reports on aeronautics. In 1979, she joined Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she worked hard to address the hiring and promotion of the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Mary retired from Langley in 1985.

“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.”

The work of Jackson , Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, 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 Janelle Monáe portraying Jackson.

For more information about Mary W. Jackson or today’s Modern Figures, click here.