by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
After the box-office success of the Fox 2000 feature film “Hidden Figures” (full disclosure – I worked as a writer on that project) in 2016, several African-American women who worked at NASA and contributed to the space race, such as the recently departed Katherine Johnson, finally became a celebrated part of the cultural zeitgeist.
It was at that time I realized I knew the names of some black astronauts (Mae Jemison, Charles Bolden) – but didn’t know who the first black astronauts were or how they contributed to the space program. So I did some research and was thrilled to learn about Guion “Guy” Bluford, Ron McNair and Frederick Gregory – the first three African-Americans in space (the first person of African descent was Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez).
Recently, the Smithsonian Channel released the documentary (watch above) “Black in Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” which primarily chronicles the journeys of Buford, McNair and Gregory. To learn more about them, read below:
Buford, McNair and Gregory were all NASA classmates in the “Class of 1978,” when NASA re-invigorated the space program after not sending anyone into space since Apollo 17 took its last journey in 1972.
This was also the class that was the first to train women as astronauts (Sally Ride) as well as the first Asian-American man (Ellison Onizuka).
Out of 8,000 applicants, only 35 were selected. While in the program, the astronauts-to-be spent a year going through a battery of tests, training and simulations to prep them all for potential flight on the NASA space shuttle program. (The Space Shuttle program was instituted to carry huge payloads in space, conduct experiments in space, and also to allow the U.S. and other countries to launch probes and satellites from space to enable further exploration of our solar system, other galaxies and the universe.) Continue reading “Story of 1st Black Astronauts Told in Smithsonian Channel Documentary “Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” (WATCH)”
Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African-American descent to hold an international pilot license. Coleman was born in Atlanta,Texas, the tenth of thirteen children to sharecroppers George, who was part Cherokee, and Susan Coleman.
In 1915, at the age of 23, she moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she lived with her brothers and she worked at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist, where she heard stories from pilots returning home from World War I about flying during the war. She could not gain admission to American flight schools because she was black and a woman. No black U.S. aviator would train her either. Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, encouraged her to study abroad.
Coleman raised money, studied French, and then traveled to Paris on November 20, 1920. She learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane, with “a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot’s feet.” On June 15, 1921, Coleman became not only the first African-American woman to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, and the first American of any gender or ethnicity to do so, but the first African-American woman to earn an aviation pilot’s license. Determined to polish her skills, Coleman spent the next two months taking lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris, and in September 1921 sailed for New York. She became a media sensation when she returned to the United States.
To learn more about Coleman’s life and career, click here or watch the Smithsonian Channel video above.
article via wikipedia.com
Bryant Gumbel on the set of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”
Robin Roberts’ ABC special about her bone marrow transplant and “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” were among the 39 winners of this year’s Peabody Awards honoring the best in electronic media in 2012. The honorees were announced at a ceremony on the University of Georgia campus, but the awards won’t be handed out until a luncheon event in New York City on May 20.
Also awarded, Comedy Central’s “D.L. Hughley: The Endangered List,” an hourlong special on whether black men should be on the endangered species list; and the Smithsonian Channel’s “MLK: The Assassination Tapes,” which used rare footage collected at the University of Memphis in 1968, to relive the events leading up to the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and its aftermath.
Continue reading “Bryant Gumbel, Robin Roberts and D.L. Hughley Win Peabody Awards”