Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were Black female mathematicians at NASA, the U.S. space agency. They faced incredible adversity and defied racial segregation to play important roles in major missions to space.
The three women were celebrated and profiled in the 2016 book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly and the subsequent film by the same name directed by Theodore Melfi.
The film starred Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer and received three Oscar nominations for showcasing the women’s struggles to advance in their careers during the Jim Crow era.
During the 1950s, mathematicians were called “computers” and Black people were known as “colored computers.” Black women were physically separated from their white colleagues even though they were calculating the same trajectories for missions involving the first Americans in space.
Now, NASA has taken a further step and renamed the street in front of its D.C. headquarters Hidden Figures Way.
The moment was captured on video on June 12 and people on Twitter in D.C. are celebrating too with the hashtag #BlackScienceHistory.
Shetterly, Sen. Ted Cruz, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Christine Darden, one of NASA’s human “computers” during the Apollo era and members of each woman’s family were there to unveil the sign on E Street.
In February, NASA renamed a facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, after Johnson. She is now 100 years old. In 2015, former President Barack Obama awarded her the presidential medal of freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Next month, NASA and the rest of the U.S. will be celebrating next month’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and first moon landing. All 12 people who walked on the moon were white American men.