Katherine Johnson


As Black History Month unfolds, it’s imperative to honor and celebrate the monumental contributions of Black women who have reshaped our world. From civil rights pioneers to trailblazing scientists, their legacies continue to inspire generations. Here are 10 remarkable Black women who have left an indelible mark on history:

Black history month

Rosa Parks

Often hailed as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked a wave of protests and catalyzed the Civil Rights Movement.

Harriet Turbman

Harriet Tubman

Known as the “Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and dedicated her life to leading others to freedom through the Underground Railroad, risking her life countless times to liberate enslaved individuals.

Black History Month

Maya Angelou

Renowned poet, author, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou‘s literary works, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” shed light on the African American experience and continue to resonate with readers worldwide.

Katherine Johnson

A pioneering mathematician at NASA, Katherine Johnson’s calculations were instrumental in launching the first American astronaut into space and played a crucial role in the success of the Apollo moon landing missions.

Madam C.J. Walker

As the first female self-made millionaire in America, Madam C.J. Walker revolutionized the haircare industry for Black women with her line of beauty products and empowered countless individuals through entrepreneurship.

Shirley Chisholm

A trailblazing politician, Shirley Chisholm shattered barriers as the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress and the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States.

Audre Lorde

A prolific writer, poet, and feminist, Audre Lorde’s works explored themes of race, gender, and sexuality, challenging societal norms and advocating for social justice and equality.

black history month

Oprah Winfrey

From her groundbreaking talk show to her philanthropic endeavors, Oprah Winfrey has become one of the most influential figures in media and entertainment, using her platform to amplify marginalized voices and inspire millions worldwide.

Dr. Mae Jemison

As the first African American woman to travel in space, Dr. Mae Jemison broke barriers in the field of space exploration and continues to advocate for STEM education and diversity in the sciences.

Michelle Obama

As the first African American First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama championed numerous initiatives to promote health, education, and empowerment, leaving a lasting impact on communities both domestically and globally.

These remarkable Black women have left an indelible legacy, inspiring future generations to dream big, persevere in the face of adversity, and work towards a more just and equitable world. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us honor their contributions and continue to uplift their stories for generations to come.

Hidden no more! The four women who worked at NASA and inspired the movie Hidden Figures are being awarded with the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal award, reports CNN.

Engineers, Dr. Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician, Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer, Dorothy Vaughan, who were all instrumental during the NASA Space Race, will receive the award for their contributions, with Vaughan and Jackson receiving theirs posthumously. A fifth gold medal will also be issued in honor of all the women who worked at NASA during the Space Race. 

These women, referred to as “human computers” did the complex calculations necessary to make space travel possible. They helped with World War II aircraft testing, supersonic flight research, Voyager probes to explore the solar system, and were instrumental in helping with the moon man landing of 1969. 

Darden, age 77, began her career as a data analyst at NASA’s Langley Research Center prior to becoming an aerospace engineer. She has published over 50 articles on aeronautics which led to enormous breakthroughs and “revolutionized aerodynamics design.” Jackson, who passed in 2005, was NASA’s first Black female engineer. She worked as an engineer for over two decades before earning the title of “Federal Women’s Program Manager,” where she was tasked with advancing “the prospects of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists.”

Johnson, age 101, provided NASA with calculations that helped them with several missions including the famed Apollo missions. She was the first woman to be acknowledged “as an author of a report from the Flight Research Division.” Vaughan, who passed in 2008, was a computer programmer who led the then segregated West Area Computing unit at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), now known as NASA. 

Senator Kamala Harris introduced the bill to honor the women calling them “pioneers and a beacon for Black women across the country, both young and old.” In a statement released to the press Harris said, “The groundbreaking accomplishments of these four women, and all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA, helped us win the space race but remained in the dark far too long. I am proud our bill to honor these remarkable women has passed Congress.”

It was Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race,” that shined a light on these women. The film adaptation starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae further enhanced the women’s profiles and helped uncover their enormous contributions to the areas of science, math and technology. 

The Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act is endorsed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Association for Women in Science, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, the Hampton Roads Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the National Congress of Black Women and many more. 

George Mason University is renaming the largest building on campus after the 100-year-old former NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson. 

She overcame racism and sexism to help lead the United States into a new era of space exploration, but few knew her amazing accomplishments until the movie Hidden Figures came out.

Katherine G. Johnson Hall will be the new name for the former Bull Run Hall. The university will also create a scholarship in Johnson’s name.

“Katherine G. Johnson Hall will be a powerful symbol of what can be achieved, no matter the obstacles, when students of all backgrounds are given the opportunity to succeed,” said Mason President Ángel Cabrera, one of the dedication ceremony speakers. “Katherine Johnson represents the idea of striving to fulfill one’s full potential. Her name on this building, and her remarkable story, will inspire future generations of scientists and engineers.”

She worked at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. for 33 years and performed complex calculations and flight path analysis in the early years of the space program, including Apollo 11 flight to the moon in 1969. 

Her achievements were seen in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

Johnson is 100 years old and was not able to make it to the dedication, but her family attended.

“For mom to be in Virginia, and have a building named after her, and to have the history as to why they chose her, has just been amazing,” her daughter Katherine Johnson said.

The movie “Hidden Figures” tells the story of Johnson who overcame racism and sexism to put rockets in space.

The movie poster was enough to blow away Olena Bromell.  “I was shocked. I looked at the poster and I was like, is that a black woman? Is that a rocket behind her?

“And she went and did math. She did math so well that the engineers were like, whoa, wait a minute!”  Bromell, a rising sophomore at Woodson High School in Fairfax, has been part of a Mason’s STEM summer program since she was in sixth grade. Several of the young people in that program attended the dedication ceremony. Bromell got to read a passage from Katherine Johnson’s book when she corrects a man’s calculations  at NASA.

“His face begins to turn the color of a cherry cough drop. I was right and he was wrong,” read Bromell.

Johnson has NASA facilities named in her honor and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Obama Medal of Freedom

Photo by: APPresident Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Of course, it’s an honor for Katherine Johnson and her family to have an academic building named after her. But the people it’s really going to impact are the students.

 “It means that I can do this, it means that I can do whatever I set my mind to, and I’m going to!” exclaimed Bromwell. 

The Katherine Johnson building is home to many academic programs including The Virginia Serious Game Institute.

Credit: Wusa9.com

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson provided pivotal contributions to space flight research from the 1940s through to the 1960s, when the United States first sent men to orbit and then walk on the Moon.

Despite their achievements, all three had to confront the racial segregation of the era.

They were among dozens of African-Americans, both male and female, who worked as mathematicians and physicists for the US space program, even as they were forced to use separate bathrooms from whites, and were barred from the same restaurants and schools frequented by whites.

The trio’s work was largely forgotten until they were profiled in the book “Hidden Figures” decades later by author Margot Lee Shetterly, later adapted into the 2016 blockbuster of the same name.

Shetterly said the decision to ordain Hidden Figures Way honored “the contributions of unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story, and whose persistence and courage have delivered us to where we are today.”

“These female mathematicians were doing the heavy lifting in aeronautical research and many, many other fields long before those chunks of electronic circuitry became the defining feature of our life and work,” she said at a Wednesday ceremony outside NASA.

In 2015, Former US President Barack Obama gave Johnson, who is now 100, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Jackson and Vaughan died in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

NASA will next month celebrate the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission and humanity’s first Moon landing.

The agency last month announced its plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 through its “Artemis” program — named for the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.

Credit: pulse.ng