NASA to name headquarters after Hampton native Mary Jackson, its first Black female engineer

Science

Mary Winston Jackson (1921–2005) successfully overcame the barriers of segregation and gender bias to become a professional aerospace engineer and leader in ensuring equal opportunities for future generations. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVY) — Officials with NASA announced on Wednesday that the title of the agency’s headquarters will be named after the first Black female engineer who worked with the organization, Hampton native Mary W. Jackson.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the building’s name will be coined the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters.

Jackson’s work caught national attention 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 made into a popular movie that same year.

“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 helped construct NASA’s successful history to explore.”

Jim Bridenstine | NASA Administrator

Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton. The mathematician and aerospace engineer went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of careers of other women at NASA.

In 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act that posthumously awarded the honor to Jackson — who passed away in 2005 — and her Hidden Figures colleagues Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden.

Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia. After graduating high school, she graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in math and physical sciences. She initially accepted a job as a math teacher in Calvert County, Maryland. She went on to work as a bookkeeper, marry Levi Jackson, start a family, and work a job as a U.S. Army secretary all before her aerospace career would take off.

“She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA but throughout this nation,”

Carolyn Lewis | Mary’s daughter

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