#BlackHerStory: Utah School Renamed After NASA’s 1st Black Female Engineer

by Ellyce Ferguson

February 9, 2018

Photo by Bob Nye/NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

In the spirit of Black Girl Magic, a Utah Elementary School’s name will officially be changed to Mary Jackson Elementary school, in honor of NASA’s first black female engineer, Mary W. Jackson. Her story was depicted in the book Hidden Figuresas well as the NAACP Image Award-winning movie, where her character was portrayed by Janelle Monáe.

PASADENA, CA – FEBRUARY 11: (L-R) Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae pose in the press room at the 48th NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 11, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

The school was already named Jackson Elementary school, but it was named after U.S. President Andrew Jackson. Now, after a unanimous vote from the Salt Late City School Board, it will represent the woman who overcame segregation, racial and gender barriers, and paved the way for future generations of aerospace engineers.

HAMPTON, VA – 1977: Mathmatician Mary Jackson, the first black woman engineer at NASA poses for a photo at work at NASA Langley Research Center in 1977 in Hampton, Virginia. (Photo by Bob Nye/NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

NAACP Salt Lake Branch President, Jeanetta Williams told News4Utah that she believes with this name change, we may see more students – 85% of which are children of color – with a greater awareness of STEM careers.

The name was also changed to promote higher education, according to the school’s principal, Jana Edward who said, “We are now recognized as the only school named after a black woman in Salt Lake District, “she continued. “We also wanted to be very cognizant we are a college-going culture. She had a college degree where President Andrew Jackson did not.”

The board will hold an official renaming ceremony in the spring to celebrate the name change that has been a long time coming.

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