Katherine Johnson should also be remembered for desegregating higher educationRoundup
tags: NASA, desegregation, Katherine Johnson
Crystal R. Sanders is an associate professor of history and director of the Africana Research Center at Pennsylvania State University. She is currently completing a book on black Southerners' efforts to secure graduate education during the era of legal segregation.
This week, the world mourns Katherine Johnson, a pioneering mathematician and scientist who became famous for performing the calculations that enabled the first American, John Glenn, to orbit the Earth.
Although the blockbuster hit “Hidden Figures” made Johnson famous for her work at NASA, she also made history long before the space race with the Soviet Union as one of the first black graduate students to attend a previously all-white, tax-supported Southern university. Johnson blazed a trail in West Virginia when she desegregated West Virginia University in 1940. Her quest for education helped to chip away at a racial caste system that stifled the academic pursuits of generations of African Americans. Moreover, she was in the vanguard of black students at predominantly white institutions who started the push for inclusion and equity that is still ongoing today.
During the era of legal segregation, Southern and border state legislatures relegated African Americans to limited undergraduate educational opportunities at severely underfunded tax-supported black colleges. Public graduate and professional school education was virtually nonexistent. To comply with the Supreme Court’s 1896 separate-but-equal doctrine, these states sent thousands of young African Americans to the other regions of the country for the post-baccalaureate education that white citizens received in state. Southern and border states purported to offer black and white citizens the same graduate opportunities, although only black students had to leave the land of their birth to receive graduate training.
comments powered by Disqus
- Black Lives Matter Movement Prods Bethlehem and Other Districts to Review How History is Taught
- During the Civil War, the Enslaved Were Given an Especially Odious Job. The Pay Went to Their Owners.
- Riots Long Ago, Luxury Living Today
- Native Americans and Polynesians Met Around 1200 A.D.
- Campaign Urges NASA to Rename the John C. Stennis Space Center
- Historical Association Schools Teachers on White House History
- MIT Professor Tunney Lee, an Architect, Urban Planner, and Historian of Chinatown, Dies at 88
- Historian Adrian Miller on Denver’s Underrepresented Legacy of Black Culinary Excellence
- ‘If I tell people about what happened, I honor my ancestors.’ How the Pandemic is Helping a Slavery Historian Develop a K-12 Lesson Plan on African-American History
- In Memoriam: Historian and Politician Ivo Banac