This spring we're airing the winning entries from the Black History Essay Contest, sponsored by the City of Bloomington and its Human Relations Commission.
Here is the essay from first-place high school winner Jaeda Thomas from Bloomington High School. Learn more about the other winners and the Human Relations Commission.
"Mary W. Jackson had such passionate love for science it led her to impromptu creation of her own legacy. Jackson acquired a dual degree in math and science. The ambition that Jackson had and her determination led her to become NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958. Mary was paved the way for other black women who shared an interest in engineering to pursue a serious career in engineering as she was one of very few female engineers during her time. Jackson fought for the ability to progress further past management level positions, not only creating a name for herself but, exhibiting that black women should be put on a higher pedestal in the workplace. Pushing for more respect in a not only male dominated profession but also of white majority, her determination was rooted from something deeper than just a source of income. Pushing to raise the standards in the workplace and use her abilities to the fullest, the only way grab everyone’s attention and show them her talents was to put in the work. Jackson began her career in NASA in the West Area Computing Unit that was segregated.
It is noted that Mary Jackson may have been the only black female aeronautical engineer in this field in the 1950’s. Jackson’s successful move to integrate herself into the then segregated West Area Computing Unit, impacted the workplace one step at a time. She proved that black women could work in higher positions and produce the same amount of effort if not more than their white colleagues. Without her help pioneering integrated workplaces with higher offered positions to the black population, black men and women may have still been in the same predicament and fighting for their representation in higher level positions. Jackson has influenced my life, pushing me to break down barriers and to never doubt the level of my intelligence. Seeing her accomplishments pushes me every day to work harder and reach for the stars. Jackson’s determination has showed me that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Being able to recognize one’s intelligence is any individuals most powerful ability. Mary and her husband used their advantages to help recruiting women into engineering, mathematician and scientist positions. She worked hard to provide NASA with its next generation of females.
In 1962, Mary and fellow engineers, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughn helped to send the first American Astronaut into orbit. Although they did not receive adequate recognition for their roles in this monumental moment for America, this was still a big win for the black community. This public success story of black women may have pushed other young black girls to pursue their dreams and more rewarding careers. For young black girls, seeing black women is especially in positive ways in mainstream media is slim to none so this success story may have helped to improve what members within the black communities and even outsiders looking into the communities to see black women as more than just a statistic. Being able to in some ways be a part of something so big in America was a good feeling that we were moving in the right direction as a whole."