NASA to rename DC headquarters after 'Hidden Figure' Mary W. Jackson; agency's 1st Black woman engineer

WASHINGTON -- NASA is renaming a facility after Black woman engineer portrayed in the movie "Hidden Figures".

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency's headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.

"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," said Bridenstine. "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."

The work of the West Area Computing Unit caught widespread 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 and Jackson's character was played by award-winning actress Janelle Monáe.

"We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson," said, Carolyn Lewis, Mary's daughter. "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."

In 2019, after a bipartisan bill by Sens. Ted Cruz, Ed Markey, John Thune, and Bill Nelson made its way through Congress, the portion of E Street SW in front of NASA Headquarters was renamed Hidden Figures Way.

President Donald J. Trump also 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.

"NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry. 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," added Bridenstine. "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."

For additional information on Mary W. Jackson, the "Hidden Figures," and today's Modern Figures, visit: www.nasa.gov/modernfigures.
Copyright © 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.