Black History Month Celebration: Influential Figures Throughout History (IV)

Mae Jemison

Image obtained from Encyclopedia Britannica

As the first African American woman to travel into space, doctor and engineer Mae Jemison is the epitome of maximizing one’s intellect regardless of societal limitations. Mae Carol Jemison was the daughter of an elementary school teacher (mother) and maintenance supervisor (father.) Inspired by Nichelle Nichols’s performance as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, Jemison determined she must appear in space one day. She later graduated from high school at the age of 16,  completed her undergraduate at Stanford University, and obtained her M.D from Cornell Medical School. After serving in the Peace Corps, and opening her private practice, it was then she decided to apply to NASA’s astronaut program. In 1989 she was selected to join the STS-47 on the space shuttle Endeavor which made 127 orbits around Earth. 

After serving for six years as an astronaut, Jemison started the Jemison Group; a group dedicated to encouraging science, technology with social change. She is also the founder of the nonprofit organization Dorothy Jemison Foundation of Excellence. To date, she is an Andrew D. White-at-Large professor at Cornell where she not only leads the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), she also sits as a Board of Directors for a number of organizations. 

Aside from all things tech and medicine, she is fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. Jemison graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African American studies. At her time at Cornell, she was the president of the Black Student Union where she was able to express her longtime passion for the arts. She choreographed a performing arts production called Out of the Shadows, a dance that highlighted the African American experience in 1970s America. 

Jemison’s story of excellence is an example to all students of what exploring all interests can eventually result in. She was a woman of color in a male-dominated field at a time when what she dreamed to be was unheard of. The time students have in college is a time to express, discover, relate and excel. Jemison desired to reach for the stars and all that she truly shines. 

Works Cited:

Alexander, K. L. (n.d.). Mae Jemison Biography. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from 

Published by centrebscwp

This is the official organization account for Centre Black STEM Coalition's website. This was intended to be passed down as new people take on the role of managing and developing the site.

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