Our family has history, too
Family photo sitting l-r: Dorothy ‘Aunt Dot’ and Cousin Aurellia Mitchell Boza. Standing l-r: Carma Lynn Henry, Elizabeth “Dee” Henry, Sonia H. Robinson, Dwayne Dillard, Debbie Dillard, Francine D. Climes, Bobby R. Henry, Sr., Pamela H. Lewis and Andre Boaz
By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
Mary Winston Jackson, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the movie “Hidden Figures,” is a connecting relative, a late great aunt of our mother Geneva Henry and our Aunt Dot Dorothy Dillard and Aunt Martha Jacobs. Jackson wasn’t the only “hidden figure” in our family.
We found out, as I’m sure other families have, about our history many years later when old stories came to life.
Aurellia Mitchell Boaz,( She is mentioned in chapter 10 of the Hidden Figures book) our cousin, also worked for NASA “as a human computer” from 1949 until 1956, when she left NASA to eventually live in Chattanooga with her husband, the late Dr. Lonnie Boaz, Jr.
Andre Boaz and his mother, Aurellia Mitchell Boaz, came to visit us in search of reconnecting with our Aunt Dot who is our deceased mother’s, (Geneva), sister.
After many, many years and a Facebook chat, the journey began.
Jackson is Aurellia’s paternal aunt.
At a time when Blacks were treated separate and unequal and women were also denied equal access to employment opportunities, the women, who were mathematicians, served critical roles in NASA’s success.
Jackson started at NASA as a “human computer” in 1951, then called National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, but continued her education and work at NASA to become NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958. She retired in 1985.
Aurellia grew up on a tobacco farm in Hallsboro, North Car-olina, the same farm we used to visit as children when we would go visit our relatives during the summer. It was reported in the Times Free Press by Yolanda Putman that Aurellia developed her love for math by working at the family store. Items weren’t pre-packaged then, so people would come and ask for a half pound of flour, and she had to know how to measure and then compute the cost.
Aurellia graduated high
school at age 15. She started work at NASA at age 19 after marrying.
Much of this article came from an article written for the Times Free Press by Yolanda Putman