• Michelle Smith

Amazing Melanated Mommies: 4

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

While African American history is too extraordinary to be summed up in a year, let alone a month, we will be celebrating phenomenal women who changed the world as we see it now all while raising children. If they can do it, so can we. Lets do it!!!

Mary Winston Jackson was the first African American woman to become an engineer. She graduated from Hampton University with a dual degree in math and physical science. Mary worked as a math teacher at a black school in Calvert County, Maryland and in a number of positions as a receptionist/secretary before landed at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951. By this time Jackson was already the mother of a little boy, and went on to have a daughter as well. After working under the supervision of engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki, who encouraged her to become an engineer herself, she attended night school classes hosted at the then segregated Hampton High School to earn credits for the graduate level math and physics classes needed to become an engineer. After petitioning she was granted special permission from the city of Hampton to join her white peers in the classroom. In 1958 Mary became NASA’s first black female aerospace engineer, and went on to author or co-author 12 technical papers for NACA and NASA. After 34 years at NASA, Jackson had earned the most senior engineering title available and took a demotion to become a manager of both the Federal Women’s Program in the NASA Office of Equal Opportunity program, as well as the Affirmative Action Program. Jackson dedicated herself to influencing the hiring and promotion of women and minorities in science, engineering and mathematics positions at NASA. Mary Jackson’s legacy was highlighted in the film Hidden Colors, as Jenelle Monae portrayed her character. Salute Mary Winston Jackson.

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