Posted on: February 16, 2024 Posted by: Romeo International Comments: 1

Ed Dwight Jr. and Leland Melvin black pioneers in “The Space Race’


Photo courtesy of Disney

In the world of outer space, we often dream of the stars above but very few get to fly beyond them and see them up close. National Geographics “The Space Race” uncovers the little-known story behind the race to put the first black man into space. During a time of unrest in the United States, most African Americans were fighting for Civil Rights. Ed Dwight Jr. became the first African American in history to be placed in front of cameras as a candidate for the United States astronaut program. His dreams became true but the road to his dream was met with difficulties along the way. Upscale sat down to share the story of these black superheroes.

Romeo International: As a young man, I watched this biography with a different set of eyes and a greater respect for those throughout history who fought this battle. I noticed how the words black and astronaut was always presented as two separate entities during that time. As if you couldn’t be both.

Ed Dwight smiling during Interview. (credit: National Geographic)

Ed Dwight Jr.: You know, back in those days, the Tuskegee Airmen were the only pilots that we knew of. Then I came along, a pilot and I had all the qualifications to be an astronaut. But the whole idea of attaching that qualification to the back end of my name, Mr. Ed White astronaut candidate was just mind-boggling. Neither the white community nor the black community understood what it meant. It was just too far-fetched to be an astronaut. When the president at the time John F. Kennedy announced a black astronaut, correction negro, it wasn’t black, it was negro astronaut. I was receiving up to 1500 letters a day from around the world after that announcement.

What was more interesting was my community, the black was unacceptable of the idea of me going to space. Why would they? They had no understanding of what space was no one did at the time. Still, that was very

strange to me that I didn’t get this groundswell of support from the black community. I didn’t understand at the time but I did know history was happening.

Romeo International: How does this amazing story get lost throughout time?

Leland Melvin: People can only comprehend in their brains what they can physically see sometimes. During those times you can only see white male test pilots. So when you think of an astronaut that’s the model of what you think about. Then when you throw this flavor in this mix, this melanin is it does not compute. Knowing what you are and not knowing what’s possible or capable is a disadvantage to all of us. And that’s what Ed and I have been trying to do. We are trying to educate people on what is possible.

The Race Space is now streaming on National Geographic, Hulu, and Disney+.

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