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A School Goes From Andrew Jackson To Mary Jackson

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City will keep its name but change its namesake. Jackson Elementary will no longer be named for Andrew Jackson, the U.S. president who owned slaves and ordered the forced brutal removal of Native Americans from their lands. This week the Salt Lake City School Board voted unanimously to name the school in honor of Mary Jackson, the first black woman to be a NASA engineer. Her story was told in the book and the movie "Hidden Figures." The Salt Lake Tribune says the crowd at the school board meeting burst into applause and a standing ovation.

Mary Jackson, who was from Virginia, died in 2005 at the age of 83. She spent 35 years at NASA, beginning in 1951, at a still segregated division called the West Area Computing Unit which calculated the trajectories of some of NASA's first space shots. She worked with children in her retirement - even helping them build a wind tunnel for science experiments at a local community center, like the kind she once helped build to test the equipment that would send men and women into space.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.