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Taraji P. Henson Honors Late NASA Pioneer Katherine Johnson

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Hidden Figures star Taraji P. Henson has paid tribute to NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who died on Sunday at the age of 101.

Henson, 49, depicted Johnson in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which received three Oscar nominations.

“Thank you QUEEN #KatherineJohnson for sharing your intelligence, poise, grace and beauty with the world!” Henson captioned a black-and-white throwback photo. “Because of your hard work little girls EVERYWHERE can dream as big as the MOON!!! Your legacy will live on FORVER AND EVER!!! You ran so we could fly!!!”

“I will forever be honored to have been apart of bringing your story to life,” Henson continued. “You/your story was hidden and thank GOD you are #hiddennomore🚀 God bless your beautiful family. I am so honored to have sat and broke bread with you all. My thoughts and prayers are with you! #RIHKatherineJohnson #representationmatters 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾💋💋💋.”

Henson’s co-star, Octavia Spencer, who played Dorothy Vaughan in the movie, then commented, “Beautiful.”

Johnson emotionally addressed the 2017 Oscars audience, taking the stage in a wheelchair.

Janelle Monae, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and actors Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer pose backstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017.

Janelle Monae, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and actors Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer pose backstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Her work played a significant role in helping Apollo 11 and its crew land on the moon in 1969. Her story gained wider recognition through the Hidden Figures book and movie, which highlighted how women of color contributed to achievements in outer space. An advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, Johnson inspired many around the world.

NASA shared news of Johnson’s death on Monday, tweeting, “We're saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers.”

Many others paid tribute to Johnson on social media, including former president Barack Obama, who awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. "After a lifetime of reaching for the stars, today, Katherine Johnson landed among them," Obama tweeted. "She spent decades as a hidden figure, breaking barriers behind the scenes. But by the end of her life, she had become a hero to millions—including Michelle and me."

Actress Viola Davis thanked Johnson for being a "pioneer and hero," while Hidden Figures producer Pharrell Williams saluted her, writing: "RIP Katherine Johnson, thank you for blessing NASA and the world with your gifts and making Virginia proud." 

Politician and activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also took to Twitter, writing, "American Hero. Thank you, Katherine Johnson."

See more on Johnson and Hidden Figures below.

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