In 1959, Ronald Erwin McNair walked into a South Carolina library. The 9-year-old aspiring astronaut wanted to check out a calculus book, but a librarian threatened to call the police if he didn't leave. McNair was black.
Years later, McNair was selected to become only the second African American to travel to space, overcoming segregation, poverty, and stereotypes in an intellectual act of resistance that inspired a generation. Tragically, McNair died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy.
McNair's story and those of other black astronauts are shared in a new documentary that looks at the final frontier of civil rights: getting black astronauts into space amid Jim Crow, danger, discrimination and the Cold War. Within four generations, they went from slavery to space.
"Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier," scheduled to air Monday on the Smithsonian Channel, examines the race to get black astronauts into the heavens More