Huntsville City Schools  |  Login  |  Staff Portal - opens in a new window  | 

Katherine Johnson Speech by Story Mackey

Katherine Johnson Speech by Story Mackey 6th grade  Ms. Lawrence 

“Everything was so new- the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them.”  

My name is Katherine Johnson. I am a NASA employee, and my calculations were critical for the Friendship 7 mission and the Apollo 13 mission.   

I was born August 26, 1918. I have always loved math, and my math gifts showed from a very young age. One of my favorite quotes explains why I love math. “Math. It’s just there… You’re either right or wrong. That’s what I like about it.”  

I graduated high school at age 14. West Virginia State University’s president, Dr. John W. Davis, hand-picked me and two other men to be the first African-American students offered spots at West Virginia State. Four years later, at age 18, I graduated from college with my Bachelor of Science degree for mathematics.    

One of my main influences was Angie Turner King. She was a math teacher at West Virginia State, and she was a great mentor to me.  

In 1936 I married James Goble. We had 3 girls. Their names were Joylette, Constance, and Katherine, who we named after me. My husband died in 1956, from a brain tumor. In 1959 I remarried to James Johnson, and we are still happily married.   

In 1953 I began working for NASA. My original position was working as a human computer. While I was working in the computing unit, my mathematical abilities were gifted with mathematical abilities, and by using those skills I was able to be recognized and I was temporarily reassigned to a role in the Flight Research Division.  

While I was working at NASA I was not always treated with equal respect as the white males were, I proved to so many people that, black or white, we all have the same potential to make a difference. I like to put it this way, “I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but no better.”   

I had many reasons to hate the people who treated me unfairly, and told me I could never make a difference, but hate gets people nowhere 

in life. If I had let hate and anger take over my body, I would have lost my respect and never gotten to where I am today. So remember, hate is never the answer.  

My work helped send astronauts to space, and later to the moon. I showed all the women that we could make a difference, and I showed the African-American community that we could make a difference. Always remember that you can do anything, and you can change the world. Just keep trucking no matter what obstacles you face. You can make the world a better place.