Meet Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut

The sky is the limit Dr. Jemison is an engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. After general medical practice and the Peace Corps, NASA selected her to join the astronaut corps. In 1992, she became the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Her companies After returning home from space, in 1993, she founded a company called the Jemison Group that researches space technology and its application to daily life. In 1999, she founded another company called Bio Sentient Corp. which focuses on developing portable technology that allows mobile monitoring of the involuntary nervous system. Jemison is also currently a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University, but taught at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002 as a professor of Environmental Studies. In 2009, she worked with First Lady Michelle Obama in a forum for promising girls in the Washington, D.C. public school district.

Her background Although Jemison calls Chicago home, she was born in Alabama in 1956 and attended school in Chicago. She entered Stanford University at the age of 16, earned her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981 at Cornell Medical College, and interned at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. She is also an accomplished dancer, and she serves on many boards, including the National Academy of Medicine and the National Women’s Hall of Fame

Mae C. Jemison is the first African-American female astronaut. In 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space.


“I’d love to go into space again if there were a mission to Mars. I’d also love to go to a completely different planetary system out of our solar system.”

“I was in training from when I was born until I became an astronaut, because as an astronaut you use all the skills you learn in life.”

“It would be nice—and I think it will be nice—to have increasingly people of all kinds involved with space exploration.”

“The biggest challenge we all face is to learn about ourselves and to understand our strengths and weaknesses.”

“You have as much right as anyone else to be in this world and to be in any profession you want. … You don’t have to wait for permission.”

“I realized I would feel comfortable anywhere in the universe because I belonged to and was a part of it, as much as any star, planet, asteroid, comet or nebula.”

“One of the amazing things in terms of African Americans is that we’ve always been involved in the sciences.”

“Science literacy is not about being able to solve all the equations or being able to come up with Einstein’s theory of relativity; it’s about figuring out how science impacts your world every day.”

“I knew in kindergarten that I wanted to be a scientist. I also wanted to be a dancer, an architect and a fashion designer.”

“Life is full of adventures. Some of them will be more demanding than others, but they all teach us about the world and ourselves along the way.”

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.”

—Mae C. Jemison

Mae Jemison – Mini Biography (TV-14; 2:23) A short biography of Mae Jemison, who became the first African American woman in space when she thrust into orbit on the shuttle Endeavour in 1992.


Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. On June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.

Early Life

Astronaut and physician Mae Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, the youngest child of Charlie Jemison, a roofer and carpenter, and Dorothy (Green) Jemison, an elementary school teacher. Her sister, Ada Jemison Bullock, became a child psychiatrist, and her brother, Charles Jemison, is a real estate broker. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Jemison was 3 years old to take advantage of better educational opportunities there, and it is that city that she calls her hometown.

Throughout her early school years, Jemison’s parents were supportive and encouraging of her talents and abilities, and she spent a considerable amount of time in her school library reading about all aspects of science, especially astronomy. During her time at Morgan Park High School, she became convinced she wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, and when she graduated in 1973 as a consistent honor student, she entered Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship.

Initial Career Choice

As she had been in high school, Jemison was very involved in extracurricular activities at Stanford, including dance and theater productions, and served as head of the Black Student Union. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the university in 1977. Upon graduation, she entered Cornell University Medical College and, during her years there, found time to expand her horizons by studying in Cuba and Kenya and working at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.

After she obtained her M.D. in 1981, Jemison interned at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. For the next two and a half years, she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research. Following her return to the United States in 1985, Jemison made a career change and decided to follow a dream she had nurtured for a long time. In October of that year, she applied for admission to NASA’s astronaut training program. The Challenger disaster of January 1986 delayed the selection process, but when she reapplied a year later, Jemison was one of the 15 candidates chosen from a field of about 2,000.

First African-American Female Astronaut

When Jemison was chosen on June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. After more than a year of training, she became the first African-American female astronaut, earning the title of science mission specialist—a job that would make her responsible for conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle

When Jemison finally flew into space on September 12, 1992, with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, she became the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, she conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. 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.

Honors and Recognition

In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison received several accolades, including several honorary doctorates, the 1988 Essence Science and Technology Award, the Ebony Black Achievement Award in 1992 and a Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College in 1993. She was also named Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year in 1990. Additionally, in 1992, an alternative public school in Detroit, Michigan, the Mae C. Jemison Academy, was named after her.

Jemison has been a member of several prominent organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served on the board of directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation from 1990 to 1992. She has also served as an advisory committee member of the American Express Geography Competition and an honorary board member of the Center for the Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition.

After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies.

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Jones Nhinson Williams

Jones Nhinson Williams is a Liberian philosopher (born in Pleebo, Maryland County but hailed from River Gee County) firmly educated by the Catholic Church. He is an American trained public policy, labor market information, strategic management, and workforce development professional with accomplished global experience in job creation and institutional governance.
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