Black History Month
You are here
When astronaut Mae Jemison saw actress Nichelle Nichols portray Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, her life was changed forever. Seeing an African-American role model helped steer Jemison toward a goal – she was determined to join NASA and become an astronaut. Years later, Jemison achieved her goal when she made history as the first African-American woman to go into space with the U.S. space program.
The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is proud to celebrate Black History Month. Inclusivity and diversity are literally written into our mission - To Open Every Mind to Science. We will be highlighting historical figures and modern local individuals making an impact in STEM throughout the month of February on this webpage and our social media. We believe visibility and representation matter, and one small act – such as seeing a role model achieve success – can have lasting effects on a person’s future.
SFSCA Statement on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access
We are an equal opportunity employer and educational facility providing equal experiences without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, age or disability. We believe that curiosity and critical thinking are essential to equity and justice for all and diversity is a key component to the success of STEM fields.
Celebrating Black Scientists
The son of freed slaves and equipped with a 6th grade education, Morgan had a natural talent for fixing things. He gained success as an inventor by tackling a variety of problems such as improving sewing machines, creating the world’s first hair relaxer, and inventing the first 3-position traffic light and a precursor to WWI gas masks.
Katherine Goble Johnson
Raised in a town where education for most African Americans ended in 8th grade, Johnson’s parents sent her to another district so she could keep learning. She excelled, skipped several grades, and graduated from college at just 18 years old. Working for the space program, Johnson’s complex mathematical calculations were critical in launching the first American into space, the first moon landing, and the start of the shuttle program.
Marie Maynard Daly
Inspired by her father, who was financially unable to finish his degree, Daly became the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry. Her research significantly contributed to our understanding of heart attacks and lung disease. In addition, her trailblazing research helped advance our understanding of how diet affects cardiovascular health and the circulatory system.
Mae could have been a dancer, but she always wanted to be an astronaut. Entering college at age 16, she earned degrees in chemistry, Afro-American studies and medicine. But space still called, so Mae applied to NASA. She became the first African American woman in space as crew on the shuttle Endeavour and then formed a company to develop technologies that improve everyday life.
A curious child, Johnson experimented by taking things apart to figure out how they worked. Once, he nearly burned his house down trying to create rocket fuel. Johnson became an engineer working on the stealth bomber program for the Air Force and on nuclear propulsion systems for NASA. But the inventions he is most famous for are the Super Soaker and Nerf toy guns.
Inspired by the Apollo moon missions as a child, Ericsson dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She earned PhDs in engineering from both Howard University and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Ericsson is currently the instrument manager for a mission to bring Mars dust back to Earth, an important step in preparing for humans to travel to Mars.
Nicole Cummings Peterkin
Nicole is an Engineering Program Manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne in Palm Beach County and has contributed to the company for over 15 years. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University, and a Master of Science degree in Quality Management from National Graduate School. In addition to her work at Aerojet Rocketdyne, Nicole works to promote STEM enrichment in schools and raise knowledge and awareness of science and engineering within the community.
Jennifer is a Global Services Engineering OKC site manager at Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corporation company, and world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units. She is responsible for supporting all military engine programs and represents Global Services Engineering in engine overhaul/repair related interactions with both the Joint Program Office and United States Air Force. Jennifer also enjoys volunteering at the South Florida Science Center and is especially passionate about the GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) program.
Additional Resources, Events, and Organizations
- To nominate an individual to be featured, email MGrenz@SFScienceCenter.org
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to join the conversation
- Black Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County
- The History of African American Communities in Palm Beach County
- Urban League
- African American Heritage Sites in Palm Beach County
- Black Girls Code