Street Renamed 'Hidden Figures Way' at NASA Headquarters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has renamed the street in front of its headquarters in Washington, DC “Hidden Figures Way,” in honor of the pioneering Black female scientists depicted in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film of the same name.

The street, which was originally named “E Street SW,” received its new name on June 12. The new street name will honor Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, in addition to all of the unacknowledged women in NASA “who honorably serve their country, advancing equality, and contributing to the United States space program,” according to a news release from NASA.“I just want to say these were the three hidden figures in a very prominent book that became a magnificent movie that started a movement that brought all of us here today,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “Here we are, 50 years after the landing of the Apollo 11 Moon lander, celebrating those figures who were, at the time, not celebrated.”

In August, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and former Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan bill to rename the street in front of NASA headquarters. Cruz, Bridenstine, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book Hidden Figures, all attended the official naming ceremony on June 12, according to the news release.“A street sign is a piece of metal, that’s under the wind, sun, rain, snow. But a street sign’s a lot more than that,” Cruz said during the naming ceremony.

“Because for years, and then decades, and then centuries, when little girls and little boys come to see NASA, they’re going to look up and see that sign, and they’re going to say ‘Hidden Figures? What’s that? What does that mean?’ And that, in turn, is going to prompt a story – a story about the unlimited human potential of all of us.”

Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. It has also won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the Black Caucus of American Library Association Best Nonfiction Book, the NAACP Image Award Best Nonfiction Book, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Communication Award.“Naming this street Hidden Figures Way serves to remind us, and everyone who comes here, of the standard that was set by these women, with their commitment to science and their embodiment of the values of equality, justice and humanity,” Shetterly said during the ceremony. “But, let it also remind us of the Hidden Figures way, which is to open our eyes to [the] contribution of the people around us so that their names, too, are the ones that we remember at the end of the story.”

The award-winning book about the Black women mathematicians and their accomplishments was adapted into the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures starring actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. The movie tells the story of three Black women, all NASA mathematicians, who used their expertise to launch astronaut John Glenn into space.The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay (Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Picture, Forbes previously reported. The film earned over $169 million domestically in the box office, gaining over $22 million its first weekend.

During a Q&A at a special event held by 20th Century Fox in September 2016, Henson said she was glad to have signed on to the movie, confessing that she needed a break from playing the role of Cookie in the television series Empire. “I'm a girl from the hood. I didn't grow up with much, so all I had was dreams, and hope, and the reason why this is so overwhelming is because when you come from a place where you have no dreams, no hope, and all you see is that people that look like you don't belong, they have no place in society, this story was important,” Henson said, according to Mashable. “This story is so important."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.