Mae C. Jemison (October 17, 1956): Physician, Astronaut and First African American Woman in Space


This is Dr. Mae Carol Jemison. Mae was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. She is the youngest of three children to Charlie Jemison, a carpenter and a roofer and Dorothy Green-Jemison, an elementary school teacher. The Jemison Family relocated to Chicago, Illinois when Dr. Mae was 3 years old in order to take advantage of better educational opportunities. As a child, Dr. Mae’s parents saw and nurtured her talents, skills, and abilities and she spent much of her time in the school library studying different areas of the sciences, astronomy in particular. When she was in high school, Dr. Mae decided that she wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. She graduated with honors from Morgan Park High School in 1973 and entered Stanford University the following fall on a national achievement scholarship.

As a college student, Dr. Mae engaged in extracurricular activities such as dance and theater productions and served as leader of the Black Student Union. Dr. Mae received of Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1977 and enrolled at Cornell University Medical College. While attending Cornell she studied in Cuba and Kenya and worked at a refugee camp in Thailand. Dr. Mae obtained her M.D. in 1981 and began working as an intern at the L.A. County California University of Southern California Medical Center later working as a general physician. For two and a half years, she worked as the area’s Peace Corps Medical Officer and worked in Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research. Dr. Mae returned to the United States in 1985 and made a career change. She wanted to follow her childhood dream and in October of 1985 applied for admission into the NASA Astronaut Training Program. Because of the Challenger tragedy in 1986, the admission process was delayed. Dr. Mae re-applied in 1987 and was one of  15 candidates chosen out of 2,000 applicants.


Dr. Mae made history on June 4, 1987 as the first African-American Woman to be admitted into to NASA’s space training program. After a year of training she became the first African-American Woman astronaut. She earned the title of science mission specialist in which she was responsible for conducting crew related science experiments on the space shuttle. A few years later on September 12, 1992 on the Endeavour, mission STS47 with six other crew members, she became the first African-American Woman in space. She carried a photo of her shero, Bessie Coleman, the first Black Woman in Flight with her on the mission. Dr. Mae spent the eight days of the mission conducting experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on herself and the crew. She spent 190 hours in space and returned to earth on September 20, 1992. Mae expressed that her historic flight was proof that women and minorities can accomplish anything if given the opportunities to do so.


Dr. Mae received many honors and awards for her accomplishments: the Essence Award for Science and Technology (1988), several honorary doctorates, the Ebony Black Achievement Award (1992), Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College (1993), Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year (1990), and an alternative public school named in her honor, the Mae C. Jemison Academy in Detroit, Michigan.  Dr. Mae is also a member of many prestigious organizations such as AMA (American Medical Association), ACS (American Chemical Society), AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), and from 1990 to 1992 served on the Board of Directors of WSCF (World Sickle Cell Foundation), served as advisory committee member on the American Express Geography Competition, and honorary board member for the Center for Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition.

Dr. Mae retired from the astronaut corps in 1993 and accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth College. She is the founder of the Jemison Group, an organization that research, develop, and market advanced technology.

I salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!

Source: “Mae Jemison.” Bio A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.


2 thoughts on “Mae C. Jemison (October 17, 1956): Physician, Astronaut and First African American Woman in Space

  1. Beautiful! I always loved this woman, and all the great work she has done. She is an inspiration to all women out there, and particularly to all the Chocolate girls growing up. As she said: women and minorities can do anything when given the means.

    Liked by 1 person

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