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NASA renames street in honour of black female mathematicians

SUCCESS: The cast of Hidden Figures, based on the stories of African American mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

NASA HAS renamed a street in front of its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way, in honour of the black female mathematicians who played a role in the US space agency’s most celebrated missions.

The honour for mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson follows the critically acclaimed book Hidden Figures, written by Margot Lee Shetterly and the subsequent film, which was directed by Theodore Melfi and starred Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer.

The film based on the three women and their struggles navigating racial segregation and equality for African American women at NASA, received three Academy Award nominations and pushed their stories further into the limelight.

Shetterly joined members of Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson’s family on Wednesday (Jun 12) to unveil the new street signs outside the Nasa offices in Washington.

They were accompanied by Ted Cruz, Chairman of the senate subcommittee on aviation and space H, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator and Christine Darden, often referred to as one of Nasa’s human “computers” during the Apollo era.

Speaking to The Guardian, Cruz said: ““I think it’s important to recognise everybody’s contributions. Women and men across every racial and ethnic lines have contributed to this incredible journey we’re on and I think it is also vitally important that we send the message to little girls and little boys that there is no limit to what you can accomplish.”

“The extraordinary achievements of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Dr Christine Darden, who’s with us today, prior to the book and the movie had not been told,” Cruz added. “Very few people knew those stories, and yet those are the stories that can and do inspire and we should be telling stories like that a lot more often.”

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