She cannot and will not stay hidden.
On Wednesday, NASA announced it will name its Washington, D.C., headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first African American female engineer, and one of several Black women mathematicians behind the manned space flights of the 1960s, whose work was shrouded from the public.
Jackson started her NASA career at the Langley Research Center (named after Samuel Pierpont Langley, a white male physicist and engineer who worked on manned airplanes in the late 1800s), where she served in a segregated unit of “human computers,” who performed by hand the calculations needed to launch objects into space. Their efforts lifted the first man into orbit in 1962, winning the Space Race for the Americans and inspiring the 2016 book and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.
The agency’s news comes amid calls for greater racial equality in the United States, as historic institutions across the country are reconsidering the legacies they choose to represent in names and likenesses.
“The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “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.”