NASA Renames Headquarters After Its First Black Woman Engineer

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jun 25, 2020

On June 24, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it has renamed its headquarters building in Washington, D.C. after Mary W. Jackson (1921–2005), its first Black woman engineer. 

Jackson’s groundbreaking career was highlighted in Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 bestselling book “Hidden Figures” and the Academy Award-nominated film of the same name, in which Janelle Monáe portrayed her. She started at NASA as a mathematician at the Langley Research Center in her hometown of Hampton, Virginia, in 1951, when the agency was still segregated. A few years later, Jackson was promoted to aerospace engineer and eventually spearheaded programs that led to the increased hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal alongside her “Hidden Figures” peers. In 2019, Congress passed a bipartisan bill that renamed a portion of E. Street S.W., in front of NASA Headquarters, Hidden Figures Way.

In the announcement about the agency’s headquarter’s name change, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says:

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 NASA video below details Jackson’s trailblazing accomplishments: