NASA's Washington, DC, headquarters now bears the name of the agency's first black female engineer. The Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building appropriately sits on a street renamed Hidden Figures Way in 2019. Jackson—portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly—was a mathematician and aerospace engineer who helped US astronauts reach space. Recruited in 1951 to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became NASA in 1958, Jackson broke barriers for African Americans and for women in engineering and technology, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says in a statement, per the BBC. Jackson died in 2005, 20 years after her retirement, reports CBS News.
Last year, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal along with colleagues Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. Jackson worked under Vaughan in the segregated West Area Computing Unit at the Langley Research Center in Virginia before becoming NASA's first black engineer in 1958. She had to get special permission to join the all-white training program and would go on to play a role in the hiring and promotion of NASA's future female leaders. "She was a … trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation," says daughter Carolyn Lewis. "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," adds Bridenstine. (Read more NASA stories.)