American STEM heroine Katherine G. Johnson was honored in Fairfax, Virginia this month. ABC reported that Sidney Lanier Middle School, which had been named for Confederate private Sidney Lanier has been renamed Katherine Johnson Middle School, after the NASA mathematician whose exploits were chronicled in the Oscar-winning movie Hidden Figures.

Katherine Goble Johnson (1918-2020) was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2015 by Pres. Barack H. Obama. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019 by Pres. Donald J. Trump.

“Laws for liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

President John Adams (1735-1826)

In a nation that values education as an investment in the future, there can be no higher honor than to name a school after someone.

“The move to rename the school came at a time when several Confederate statues were toppled and institutions bearing Confederate names were heavily criticized amid national protests denouncing racism. Civil rights activists have said Confederate titles and monuments pay homage to America’s history of slavery and racism,” Marlene Lenthang reported for ABC.

Sidney Lanier (1842-1881) was a private in the Confederate army. The school was named for him not for his military service as a blockade runner during the Civil War, but for being a poet and a musician. Lanier also had his picture on a postage stamp in 1972. However, as statues of Confederate soldiers are being removed and buildings named after them are being renamed, the City of Fairfax’s schoolboard voted unanimously to change the name of the middle school.

This not the first school to be named for her. In 2020, an elementary school in Pierce County, Washington was named in honor of Katherine Johnson. In June 2019, George Mason University, also in Fairfax County, Virginia named the largest building on their SciTech campus, the Katherine G. Johnson Hall.

Katherine Johnson helped send Neil Armstrong to the Moon. She fought against racism and sexism and became one of NASA’s heroines (and eventually, a heroine to the entire nation). Johnson had two husbands, three daughters, six grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. Johnson was awarded seven honorary doctorates. She is a proud example for the students of Fairfax, Virginia to emulate.


Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.