This is part of a series of blog posts highlighting African-Americans in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as part of NTEU’s celebration of Black History Month.
Astronauts are brave, but becoming the first female African American astronaut takes another level of courage.
When Mae C. Jemison was 12, there were civil rights protests near her Chicago neighborhood, prompting the mayor to call in the National Guard. Although scared and confused by watching the National Guard marching with rifles, Jemison swore she never feel that scared again. She reminded herself that she was as much an American as the National Guardsman.
That young girl would grow up to attend medical school at Cornell University, where she studies internal medicine. After volunteering in a Cambodian refugee camp and studying in Kenya, Jemison graduated and eventually managed health care for the Peace Corps in West Africa. Working in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, Jemison developed and participated in research studies on hepatitis B and rabies vaccines.
After returning to the United States, Jemison became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. As a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour, in 1992 Jemison orbited the earth, becoming the first African-American woman in space.
In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison received a number of accolades and awards, including several honorary doctorates.