NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised Jackson as a trailblazer whose efforts helped keep America at the forefront of the space race.
“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,” Bridenstine said in a press release.
“Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building,” he continued. “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.”
Jackson, a mathematician and engineer, started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Her work was also the subject of the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book “Hidden Figures,” which was made into a feature film that same year.
“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” Mary’s daughter Carolyn Lewis said. “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, President Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act and posthumously awarded Jackson’s efforts, along with those of her colleagues. She passed away in 2005.
The renaming comes after various protests erupted throughout the U.S. over police brutality following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. The demonstrations have led to a national debate over the depiction of certain historical monuments, the Confederate flag and brands such as Aunt Jemimah.
“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,” Bridenstine said.
He added: “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.”