Mae Jemison: First Female African American Astronaut

Mae Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. As the youngest child of three to parents, Charlie and Dorothy Jemison, she had big dreams. Contrary to her parents’ occupations of roofer and elementary school teacher, the three Jemison children grew up to be quite astonishing. Mae herself became the first black female astronaut and doctor, her two older siblings became a real estate broker and a child psychiatrist.

Moving to Chicago, Illinois at the age of three, Mae Jemison and her family experienced better educational opportunities. As Jemison grew up she found a particular liking to bio medical engineering, and graduated high school in 1973 as a consistent honor student; She attended Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship.

Throughout her college career from Stanford to Cornell Medical College, Jemison graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering in 1977 and received her M.D. in 1981. She was involved in many extracurricular activities such as dancing, and visited a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. Following her philanthropic tendencies, she became the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she taught and did medical research.

When Jemison returned to the U.S. from the Peace Corps in 1985, she pursued a very special dream of hers, and applied to NASA’s astronaut training program, and eventually became one of the 15 selected from 2,000. On June 4, 1987, she became the first black female woman to be admitted to the program, and a little over a year later she became the first black female astronaut. Jemison finally flew into space along with six other astronauts on September 12, 1992, aboard the Endeavour; she became the first black woman in space.