NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that it will rename its Washington D.C. headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.
Jackson, who was portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the box office hit “Hidden Figures,” started her career in the West Area Computing Unit of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
As a mathematician and aerospace engineer, Jackson authored and/or co-authored several research reports centered around the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. She also advocated for the hiring and promotion of the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists.
“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,” said Bridenstine, according to a NASA press release.
During her career, Jackson faced racism and discrimination while working in the segregated West Area Computing Unit. In fact, while furthering her education in order to be promoted from mathematician to engineer, Jackson had to receive special permission to attend a training program held at the then-segregated local high school.
In 2019 Jackson was honored, along with fellow NASA mathematicians and engineers, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, with the signing of the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act.
Bridenstine also acknowledged that Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson, and more people of diverse backgrounds contributed greatly to NASA’s success in a statement:
“NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry. The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation. Over the years NASA has worked to honor the work of these Hidden Figures in various ways, including naming facilities, renaming streets and celebrating their legacy. We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so.”
The newly renamed building is located on Hidden Figures Way, the portion of E Street SW in front of NASA Headquarters.