NASA officially named its headquarters in the nation’s capital after Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first Black woman engineer, with a ceremony honouring her legacy on Friday.
“With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA headquarters, we ensure that she is a hidden figure no longer,” NASA acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said during Friday’s ceremony, which was largely virtual due to the pandemic .
“Jackson’s story is one of incredible determination. She personified NASA’s spirit of persevering against all odds, providing inspiration and advancing science and exploration,” Jurczyk added. “There is no denying that she faced innumerable challenges in her work, work that would eventually help send the first Americans to space.”
Because of engineers like Jackson, Jurczyk said, “America and the world were not only able to dream of landing among the stars but to make that dream a reality.”
Jackson’s work was spotlighted in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
The book was turned into the Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures” later that same year, with actress Janelle Monae portraying Jackson.
The virtual ceremony Friday featured a slew of speakers who honoured Jackson’s work, including poet Nikki Giovanni, who read an excerpt from her work, “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea.”
Two of the trailblazing engineer’s grandchildren, Wanda Jackson and Bryan Jackson, also spoke at the event Friday. Mary W. Jackson died in 2005 at 83 years old.