“Mary W. Jackson was part of a very important group of women who helped NASA get American astronauts into space,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the agency’s announcement Wednesday.
“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break down barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”
The news comes amid renewed calls for equality after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. His death, along with that of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, sparked protests across the country calling for justice and an end to police brutality.
Jackson began his career at NASA in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, NASA said.
Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, led programs aimed at uplifting women within NASA.
He retired from NASA in 1985 and passed away in 2005, at the age of 83.
President Donald Trump enacted the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act in November 2019. Jackson, along with his esteemed African American colleagues Christine Darden, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, received congressional gold medals. Vaughan and Jackson, who died, were awarded posthumously.
It was written about all women in the book “Hidden Figures,” which later became an acclaimed film, starring Janelle Monáe as Jackson, detailing the contributions of black women to early space flight.
“Hidden already, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have helped build NASA’s successful history to explore,” Bridenstine said.
The NASA headquarters building Mary W. Jackson will be located on Hidden Figures Way.