NASA announced they will be renaming their headquarters in Washington, D.C. after Mary W. Jackson on June 24, 2020. Jackson is the first black female engineer at NASA. The trailblazer started her career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of NASA’s Langley Research Center (located in Virginia.)
Paving the Way for a Brighter Future
With a degree in math and aerospace engineering, she became an inspiration to many black people, especially women, all over. Marked as one of NASA’s “Hidden Figures,” Jackson led programs, shaping the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s engineering, mathematics, technology, and science careers.
Jackson passed away in 2005, however, in 2019 she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters… It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history… Hidden no more..”
In 2019, a bipartisan bill was presented to Congress by Senators Ted Cruz, John Thune, Bill Nelson, and Ed Markey. In the bill, they requested to rename the portion of E Street SW. This street is located directly in front of the building.
Jackson’s Family Is Happy With the Name
Jackson’s daughter, Carolyn Lewis stated how the whole family is “honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother.” Jackson battled her way through tremendous diversity, completed courses, and earned her promotion. In 1958 she earned her job as an engineer, NASA’s first. Throughout her decades of work she wrote and co-authored numerous research reports.
Outcries for equality are still being heard today. The decision to rename the building comes amid the rising tensions growing in the United States from the killing of George Floyd about a month ago. Racial inequality should not be a thing of today, however, the sad truth of it is that it is still happening.
The original name of the building was the Stennis Space Center, it was named after senator John C. Stennis, who was a vocal advocate for racial segregation in the 1950s to the 60s. These laws made living as a black person difficult in those times. Jackson and many others like her paved the way for so many today.
By Sheena Robertson
The Verge: NASA names headquarters after Mary Jackson, the agency’s first Black female engineer
NASA: NASA Names Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary W. Jackson
Yahoo!: NASA renames DC HQ after trailblazing engineer Mary W. Jackson
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License