NASA To Rename Headquarters After Its 1st Black Female Engineer Mary W. Jackson

Jun 25, 2020
Originally published on June 26, 2020 8:11 am
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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Say their names. That's been the cry during protests on the streets in recent weeks.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Because names matter - saying them, celebrating them or putting them on the side of a building.

MCCAMMON: Do you know the name Mary W. Jackson? Well, NASA wants to make sure you do.

SHAPIRO: The agency announced this week that it's naming its Washington headquarters after Jackson. She was the agency's first African American female engineer and a key player in helping American astronauts reach space.

MCCAMMON: Actress Janelle Monae portrayed her in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HIDDEN FIGURES")

JANELLE MONAE: (As Mary Jackson) And I can't change the color of my skin, so I have no choice but to be the first, which I can't do without you, sir. Your Honor, out of all the cases you're going to hear today, which one is going to matter 100 years from now? Which one is going to make you the first?

SHAPIRO: That's Monae recreating a key moment from Jackson's life, when she petitioned the city of Hampton, Va., for the right to take advanced engineering classes with white students at a local high school. Author Margot Lee Shetterly, whose book inspired the film, says the name change is an apt tribute.

MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY: It is so fitting. And it really is truly inspiring that this organization where Mary Jackson spent most of her career and where she - that she loved and really believed in will now be a part of her legacy. And Mary, thank you for everything that you've given us. Congratulations.

MCCAMMON: Jackson's daughter, Carolyn Lewis, told The New York Times that her mom was a trailblazer who paved a way for others to succeed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.