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NASA renamed headquarters to honor ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary W. Jackson

She was the first black engineer at the space agency.

Mary W. Jackson NASA

The NASA Headquarters building in Washington, D.C has been renamed to reflect the space agency’s first African American female engineer Mary W. Jackson. The decision was announced last year. The event was attended by members of her family and the acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.

“With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters today, we ensure that she is a ‘Hidden Figure’ no longer,” Jurczyk announced during the virtual ceremony. Agency administrators also spoke of the systemic racial inequalities that Black people faced while employed at NASA, as well as the prejudiced barriers that still exist for people of color.

Jackson started her career in 1951 during the height of the segregation as a research mathematician and eventually become NASA’s first Black female engineer. Jackson was amongst other African American mathematicians at NASA who were instrumental in getting the U.S. into outer space.

“Her work with other human computers, many of them Black women, not only turned around the space race but also galvanized imaginations around the world as to what we Americans can achieve,” Jurczyk proclaimed.

After earning the senior engineering title available, Jackson accepted a demotion to manage and oversee programs that influenced the hiring and promotion of female scientists, engineers and mathematicians. She tirelessly worked to highlight the accomplished work of women and other minorities in the field. She retired in 1985. Jackson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 2019.

“May her name, as well as her legacy, forever be a reminder to all those who enter these mighty doors that we, as a people, have only been able to touch the stars because of ancestors like her,” historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. said in a video that was played during the ceremony. Jackson was portrayed by Janelle Monae in the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” (2016).

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