Katherine Johnson … an Inspiration ~Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director of the NMAAHC


AN INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US
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Katherine Johnson, Hampton, Virginia
Collection of the Smithsonian National
Museum of African American History
& Culture, Gift of Annie Leibovitz,
© Annie Leibovitz

March is Women’s History Month. And the National Museum of African American History and Culture is putting a special focus on the stories of remarkable African American women who overcame the twin barriers of racism and sexism to make their mark on our nation’s history.

Three of the notable women we’re celebrating this month are Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, NASA scientists who — as they toiled in relative obscurity and battled discrimination — helped to ensure the safety of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts, and the success of John Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission in 1962. Their amazing story is recounted in the hit film Hidden Figures, based on the book of the same name by African American author Margot Lee Shetterly, whose father was also a NASA scientist.

Shortly before Hidden Figures opened in theaters, the producers chose our Museum for a special, private screening of the film. In attendance that evening were Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe — who portrayed Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson, respectively — in addition to costar Kevin Costner, director Ted Melfi and musical superstar Pharrell Williams, who produced the movie. The event also featured remarks from former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., as well as the unveiling of a portrait of Katherine Johnson by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. That portrait is now part of the Museum’s collection.

With the opening of Museum, trailblazing African American women like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are finally receiving the recognition they so richly deserve — inspiring girls and young women everywhere to pursue their dreams. And as a supporter, you can take pride in knowing that you help bring the stories of these African American heroes — and many more — out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Thank you for helping the National Museum of African American History and Culture elevate the African American experience to its rightful place at the center of our nation’s story!

dd-sustainerlanding-2014-lonnie-bunch.jpg All the best,
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Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director
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