NASA Names D.C. Headquarters After Its First Black Woman Engineer, Hidden Figure Mary Jackson
Jackson, who died in 2005, was portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures
On Wednesday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarter complex will be named after Jackson, who became the first Black woman to work as an engineer at NASA in 1958.
Jackson — a mathematician and aerospace engineer — joined NASA at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, working in its segregated West Area Computing Unit where she went on to lead initiatives that promoted the hiring of female scientists at NASA. Jackson died in 2005.
"Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space," Bridenstine said in a recent press 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 Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building sits on the portion of E Street SW named Hidden Figures Way.
"Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible," added Bridenstine.
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Voicing her excitement, Monáe, 34, shared the news on Twitter, writing a series of exclamation points to convey her glee: "!!!!!"
In an interview with The Telegraph in February 2017, the singer opened up about playing Jackson and why she was "proud" that Hidden Figures would tell the stories of "true, new American heroes that just so happen to be Black women."
"Mary Jackson … believed that everyone, no matter what your color was, what your gender was, you had a right to the American dream," said Monáe at the time. "She wasn’t trying to be the first African American female engineer. She just wanted to be an engineer."
She added: "If everyone had that mentality of 'genius has no color, brilliance has no race' … we just need those opportunities and it’s about a shared humanity."
RELATED VIDEO: Hidden Figures' Taraji P. Henson Honors NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson After Her Death
In 2017, Katherine G. Johnson — played by Henson in the movie — was honored by NASA in the form of a new research building: the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility. Johnson died in February at age 101.
"NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry," Bridenstine said. "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," Bridenstine continued. "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."