NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson’s name replaces Confederate solid – BOTWC


It’s a new era for the school!

The name of Katherine Johnson, iconic NASA mathematician, replaced that of a Confederate soldier at a college in Virginia, ABC News reports. The City of Fairfax School Board voted unanimously in November 2020 to rename Sidney Lanier Middle School after months of debate. At the time, Confederate statues, institutions and monuments were under fire in national protests against racism.

Civil rights activists have long argued that honoring those who fought for Confederation continues to celebrate the country’s history of slavery and racism. Last week, the old college held a name change ceremony, choosing to rename the school in honor of Katherine Johnson. She is the inspiring NASA mathematician who was one of the four black women who brought America’s first astronaut to successfully circle the Earth.

“[Johnson’s] the contributions continued to serve the nation and helped ensure that “the Eagle had landed … and landed safely.” So I think it’s fitting that the name Katherine Johnson for our college inspires new generations of “Eagles” for our community, and I can’t wait to see them fly, ”said Jon Buttram, a board member. school in the city.

Johnson’s story gained prominence after being portrayed in the 2016 hit movie “Hidden Figures.” The mathematician was hired by NASA in 1953 and was responsible for helping calculate the trajectory of AlanShepard, the first American in space, before the use of electronic computers. Even after computers came into play for these types of missions, when astronaut John Glenn was preparing for his mission, he asked Johnson to recheck his calculations. Glenn would become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.

In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2019, she received a Gold Medal of Congress with other “Hidden Figures, “ Dr Christine Darden, and posthumous medals awarded to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson under the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act”. JOhnson died in February 2020 at the age of 101.

Principal Dr. Tammara M. Hanna spoke about the significance of the school name change, saying, “Our school was named in the 1960s when Fairfax County named all of the colleges to after literary personalities. After six months of community involvement and receiving over 300 name suggestions, we felt it was important to find a name that reflects the values ​​and beliefs of our diverse school and community. We found great enthusiasm in choosing Katherine Johnson to be our new namesake. As our City of Fairfax Superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Pajardo, reminded us at the ceremony, “Names matter, names inspire and names show students that they are valued. “

Johnson’s family members attended the ceremony. Her niece, Valerie Johnson, who also happens to be a Fairfax County Public School Mathematics Resource Specialist, said her aunt would be delighted with the name change.

“We are delighted that they chose her name among so many others. She had a very humble start, she was not a proud person and she never really shared all of her accomplishments with people. Even as a child. , I didn’t really understand the magnitude of her work, but as an adult I discovered her great and important work at NASA and the fact that she really had superpowers; it was passion, perseverance and courage, ”Johnson said.

The new Katherine Johnson Middle School is the second school name change made in Fairfax County after a black cultural icon this year. In April, they became the first school district to rename a high school in honor of the late civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis.

Photo courtesy of ABC

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