A Utah elementary school is making history by changing its name to honor the late Black NASA mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary W. Jackson, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Earlier this week, the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education voted unanimously to make the change and pay homage to Jackson whose contributions to STEM were highlighted in the film Hidden Figures, the news outlet writes. The school was originally named after former president Andrew Jackson. Many people were opposed to the school being named after him due to his connection to slavery during the 19th century. He owned over 100 slaves during his lifetime. The decision to change the name of this school has fostered conversations about other institutions in the community that are named after individuals who have ties to racism.
According to the news outlet, the name changing will mark the first time that a school in Salt Lake City has been named after a woman. The process took nearly a year, but school officials are glad that its finally coming to fruition. “We also wanted to be very cognizant we are a college-going culture. She had a college degree where President Andrew Jackson did not,” School Principal Jana Edward said in a statement. “Also, it means we get to recognize a black woman who became the first black female NASA engineer.”
The name change is making a positive impact on the children as well. Many students have shown interest in learning more about Mary Jackson’s journey. “It’s incredible how she worked under all the stresses people like her [dealt] with,” a fifth-grader told the news outlet. “She’s a person of color, a woman. It was very hard for women of that time.”
Many schools are taking measures to rename themselves after Black pioneers. Last year, a Mississippi school announced that it would be renamed after former president Barack Obama.