Mary W. Jackson was once a “hidden figure” at NASA. On Wednesday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced NASA’s Washington D.C. headquarters is now named after her.
Most of us remember the 2016 Film “Hidden Figures” (adapted from Margo Lee Shetterley’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race) which introduced us to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Each were part of NASA’s team of women working out of the segregated West Area Computing Unit of NASA’s Langley Research Center. Capable of performing detailed mathematical calculations, these women were referred to as human “computers”. They calculated, by hand, complex equations critical to the space program, allowing our nation’s astronauts to not only travel to space, but also safely return.
In Wednesday’s press release, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine stated: “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. Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. 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 made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”
The Milieux Project celebrates Mary and those like her: drawing from the strength within to achieve success, shatter obstacles, challenge societal norms, and lead the way for the rest of us as we navigate the path to our own dreams.