Black History Month spotlight – Mae Jemison

On October 17, 1956, Mae Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama to parents, Charlie Jemison and Dorothy Jemison.

Her father worked as a roofer and carpenter while her mother worked as an elementary school teacher. She is the youngest of two older siblings, Ada Jemison and Charles Jemison. At the age of three, the Jemison family moved to Chicago, Illinois where she spent the rest of her childhood.

As a child, Jemison took interest in science and spent a majority of her time in the school library. She mostly gravitated towards astronomy related books. Her parents were always supportive of her dreams and abilities. By the time she reached high school, she had finalized her future.

Jemison wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering.

When Jemison graduated from Morgan Park High School in 1973, she attended Stanford University with a National Achievement Scholarship.

During her time at Stanford, Jemison was a part of multiple extracurricular activities. These activities included dance, theater and being the head of the Black Student Union.

She ended up earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering. After graduating from Stanford, she attended the Cornell University Medical College where she earned her M.D.

Jemison also studied abroad in Cuba, Kenya and Thailand, where she worked in a Cambodian refugee camp. After returning to the United States, Jemison decided to follow her long time dream.

In October of 1985, she applied to NASA’s astronaut training program.

Unfortunately, The Challenger disaster of January 1986 delayed the selection process, but when she reapplied a year later, Jemison was one of the 15 people chosen out of 2,000 a group of people.

Mae C. Jemison is known by many as the first African-American female astronaut to fly into space.

This great accomplishment happened aboard the Endeavor in 1992 on the mission STS47 with six other astronauts. She served the mission specialist helping the crew conduct experiments dealing with life sciences. The experiment involved the effects of weightlessness and motion sickness on people in space.

Her trip into space lasted about 190 and hours or about eight days.

Afterwards, multiple awards and honors were given to Jemison for her outstanding feat.

Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity. 


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