Zone1 Ed Dwight was to be the first Black astronaut. At 90, he’s finally getting his due

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I wonder how our country might have evolved differently if not for the interference that prevented Captain White from being included in the NASA space program back in 1963, despite having the backing of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Those who wanted to keep the NASA space program all white successfully did everything they could to exclude him and ultimately were successful. This news story is more about Captain White and his life history than about finally making it into space this weekend:

While at Edwards, Dwight was celebrated on the covers of Black magazines like Jet and Sepia. Hundred of letters hailing him as a hero poured in. But in training, he was treated with hostility by officers who resented his inclusion in the program and the White House’s involvement.​
This image released by National Geographic shows U.S. Air Force Capt. Ed Dwight, who is featured in a documentary “The Space Race, chronicling the stories of Black astronauts. (Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)

(Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)​
Former NASA astronaut Ed Dwight poses for a portrait to promote the National Geographic documentary film The Space Race during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)​
“They were all instructed to give me the cold shoulder,” Dwight says. “Yeager had a meeting with the students and the staff in the auditorium and announced it — that Washington was trying to shove this N-word down our throats.”​
Dwight describes one incident when he was the only pilot sent out to fly when film producers, along with Jimmy Stewart, came to the base to film the officers. He recounts private sessions with Yaeger “telling me how good the white guys were and how I shouldn’t be there.”​
“All that kind of stuff didn’t really bother me,” Dwight says. “The mission was the main thing. What people didn’t know was that I was being handled out of the West Wing of the White House the whole time I was there. Either every day or every other day: ‘How’s it going? What’s happening? What do you need?’”​
Yeager, who died in 2020, maintained Dwight simply wasn’t as good as the other pilots. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote: “From the moment we picked our first class, I was caught in a buzz saw of controversy involving a black student. The White House, Congress, and civil rights groups came at me with meat cleavers, and the only way I could save my head was to prove I wasn’t a damned bigot.”​
The tensions were also described in Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.”​
“Every week, it seemed like, a detachment of Civil Rights Division lawyers would turn up from Washington, from the Justice Department, which was headed by the president’s brother, Bobby,” wrote Wolfe. “The lawyers squinted in the desert sunlight and asked a great many questions about the progress and treatment of Ed Dwight and took notes.”​
This image released by National Geographic shows former astronaut Ed Dwight during the filming of the documentary The Space Race, which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP

Dwight during the filming of the documentary “The Space Race,” which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP
Dwight was among the 26 potential astronauts recommended to NASA by the Air Force. But in 1963, he wasn’t among the 14 selected. Dwight astronaut future took a more drastic turn when Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.​
“Everybody was wondering, ‘What’s going to happen with Dwight?’” says Dwight. “Everything changed.”​
Kennedy was killed on a Friday. By Monday, Dwight says, he had papers in his mailbox shipping him out to Germany. He quickly met with Bobby Kennedy in Washington, who had the Pentagon cancel those orders. A day after that, he had papers sending him to Canada.​
Ultimately, Dwight was stationed at Wright-Patterson in Ohio in January of 1964. He graduated the program and totaled some 9,000 hours of air time, but never became an astronaut. He left the Air Force in 1966.​
Asked if he was bitter about his experience, Dwight exclaims, “God no!”​
“Here you get a little 5-foot-four guy who flies airplanes and the next thing you know this guy is in the White House meeting all these senators and congressmen, standing in front of all these captains of industry and have them pat me on the back and shake my hand,” Dwight says. “Are you kidding me? What would I be bitter about? That opened the world to me.”​
Dwight initially landed at IBM, then he started a construction company. In 1977, he earned his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Denver. Much of his work is of great figures from Black history such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Barack Obama. Several of his sculptures have been flown into space, most recently one aboard the vessel Orion. NASA named an asteroid after him.
[news story continued at the link below]​
 
Off-topic, but the thread reminded me of a good movie I watched the other day called Hidden Figures.

Some historical inaccuracies scattered about, but overall a good movie.
 
Off-topic, but the thread reminded me of a good movie I watched the other day called Hidden Figures.

Some historical inaccuracies scattered about, but overall a good movie.
Except the story was true.
 
I wonder how our country might have evolved differently if not for the interference that prevented Captain White from being included in the NASA space program back in 1963, despite having the backing of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Those who wanted to keep the NASA space program all white successfully did everything they could to exclude him and ultimately were successful. This news story is more about Captain White and his life history than about finally making it into space this weekend:

While at Edwards, Dwight was celebrated on the covers of Black magazines like Jet and Sepia. Hundred of letters hailing him as a hero poured in. But in training, he was treated with hostility by officers who resented his inclusion in the program and the White House’s involvement.​
This image released by National Geographic shows U.S. Air Force Capt. Ed Dwight, who is featured in a documentary “The Space Race, chronicling the stories of Black astronauts. (Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)

(Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)​
Former NASA astronaut Ed Dwight poses for a portrait to promote the National Geographic documentary film The Space Race during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)​
“They were all instructed to give me the cold shoulder,” Dwight says. “Yeager had a meeting with the students and the staff in the auditorium and announced it — that Washington was trying to shove this N-word down our throats.”​
Dwight describes one incident when he was the only pilot sent out to fly when film producers, along with Jimmy Stewart, came to the base to film the officers. He recounts private sessions with Yaeger “telling me how good the white guys were and how I shouldn’t be there.”​
“All that kind of stuff didn’t really bother me,” Dwight says. “The mission was the main thing. What people didn’t know was that I was being handled out of the West Wing of the White House the whole time I was there. Either every day or every other day: ‘How’s it going? What’s happening? What do you need?’”​
Yeager, who died in 2020, maintained Dwight simply wasn’t as good as the other pilots. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote: “From the moment we picked our first class, I was caught in a buzz saw of controversy involving a black student. The White House, Congress, and civil rights groups came at me with meat cleavers, and the only way I could save my head was to prove I wasn’t a damned bigot.”​
The tensions were also described in Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.”​
“Every week, it seemed like, a detachment of Civil Rights Division lawyers would turn up from Washington, from the Justice Department, which was headed by the president’s brother, Bobby,” wrote Wolfe. “The lawyers squinted in the desert sunlight and asked a great many questions about the progress and treatment of Ed Dwight and took notes.”​
This image released by National Geographic shows former astronaut Ed Dwight during the filming of the documentary The Space Race, which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP

Dwight during the filming of the documentary “The Space Race,” which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP​
Dwight was among the 26 potential astronauts recommended to NASA by the Air Force. But in 1963, he wasn’t among the 14 selected. Dwight astronaut future took a more drastic turn when Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.​
“Everybody was wondering, ‘What’s going to happen with Dwight?’” says Dwight. “Everything changed.”​
Kennedy was killed on a Friday. By Monday, Dwight says, he had papers in his mailbox shipping him out to Germany. He quickly met with Bobby Kennedy in Washington, who had the Pentagon cancel those orders. A day after that, he had papers sending him to Canada.​
Ultimately, Dwight was stationed at Wright-Patterson in Ohio in January of 1964. He graduated the program and totaled some 9,000 hours of air time, but never became an astronaut. He left the Air Force in 1966.​
Asked if he was bitter about his experience, Dwight exclaims, “God no!”​
“Here you get a little 5-foot-four guy who flies airplanes and the next thing you know this guy is in the White House meeting all these senators and congressmen, standing in front of all these captains of industry and have them pat me on the back and shake my hand,” Dwight says. “Are you kidding me? What would I be bitter about? That opened the world to me.”​
Dwight initially landed at IBM, then he started a construction company. In 1977, he earned his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Denver. Much of his work is of great figures from Black history such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Barack Obama. Several of his sculptures have been flown into space, most recently one aboard the vessel Orion. NASA named an asteroid after him.
[news story continued at the link below]​
I have no doubt Mr Dwight encountered Racism in his days with the Space Program. Those were times in which he lived. Fortunately, he seems to be very happy about the life and career he had and best of all (based on your article) he bears no bitterness. Quote: 'What would I be bitter about? That opened the world to me.” Well said Mr. Dwight.
 
Another example of how whites were given what they call Affirmative Actoion while qualified blacks were denied the same opportunity.
Maybe he should have been picked, but not picking him wasn’t AA for whites. Read the article, he was the recipient of AA, NASA was under constant pressure from the President, the AG, the Senate and the House to include him in the original seven Astronauts. That is classic Affirmative Action at work. Immense political pressure was being exerted on his behalf.

You might also notice that he was only an O-3 and the astronauts selected were all O-4s and O-5s He wasn’t bitter, why are you?
Looking at the Wikki article on him, in 1963 he had almost no experience compared to the selected pilots. For instance Yeager had seven kills in WWII, had been a test pilot for seven years. In 1962 he was a full colonel. Alan Shepard had seven years as a test pilot. John Glen flew 57 combat sorties in WWII and 63 in Korea. He had three MiG-15 kills while flying the straight wing F9F Panther a plane far inferior to the MiG. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in 1963. Gus Grissom flew 100 combat sorties in Korea. Grissom had been a test pilot for five years. Wally Schirra had two MiG kills in Korea while flying 90 combat sorties. He had five years as a test pilot. Deke Slayton flew 56 combat sorties in WWII. He was a test pilot for eight years.

Honestly, how does Dwight with no service in WWII or Korea, and no time as a test pilot measure up to the seven actually picked? White wasn’t even the same league as the other candidates. There were probably members of the Tuskegee Airmen who could match the selected white officers, but they had transitioned to civilian life rather than deal with the peacetime military.
 
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Very informative, although not surprising, OP.

One has to wonder, how much of this historical anti-Black bigotry, racism and white supremacy is still going on today?
We see the answer to your question in this forum.
 
Maybe he should have been picked, but not picking him wasn’t AA for whites. Read the article, he was the recipient of AA, NASA was under constant pressure from the President, the AG, the Senate and the House to include him in the original seven Astronauts. That is classic Affirmative Action at work. Immense political pressure was being exerted on his behalf.

You might also notice that he was only an O-3 and the astronauts selected were all O-4s and O-5s He wasn’t bitter, why are you?
Looking at the Wikki article on him, in 1963 he had almost no experience compared to the selected pilots. For instance Yeager had seven kills in WWII, had been a test pilot for seven years. In 1962 he was a full colonel. Alan Shepard had seven years as a test pilot. John Glen flew 57 combat sorties in WWII and 63 in Korea. He had three MiG-15 kills while flying the straight wing F9F Panther a plane far inferior to the MiG. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in 1963. Gus Grissom flew 100 combat sorties in Korea. Grissom had been a test pilot for five years. Wally Schirra had two MiG kills in Korea while flying 90 combat sorties. He had five years as a test pilot. Deke Slayton flew 56 combat sorties in WWII. He was a test pilot for eight years.

Honestly, how does Dwight with no service in WWII or Korea, and no time as a test pilot measure up to the seven actually picked? White wasn’t even the same league as the other candidates. There were probably members of the Tuskegee Airmen who could match the selected white officers, but they had transitioned to civilian life rather than deal with the peacetime military.
Another name that isn't on the list is Bob Hoover, WWII vet, famously escaped from German custody by stealing an FW-190 and flying it back to England.

WAS a test pilot, and is considered by most aviators to be the finest stick and rudder pilot of all time.

Not on the list.
 
We see the answer to your question in this forum.
So, no comment on the FACTS in my post? White was in no way competitive with the seven men chosen to fly Mercury. I can't find a listing of his flight hours, but I doubt he had a hundredth as many as the other candidates. Of course, all you are willing to see is the color of his skin and scream racism to the heavens. White was a AAA baseball player up against the members of the World Series winning team. His race was the only thing that got White even considered for the Mercury Seven.
 
Another example of how whites were given what they call Affirmative Actoion while qualified blacks were denied the same opportunity.
There is no evidence presented that Mr. Dwight's skills as a pilot put him in the top group selected for the space mission. There is evidence that Mr. Dwight was personally selected to be in the program by President Kennedy which in a sense made him one of the first beneficiaries of DEI.
 
I just saw an interview of Mr Dwight after his Blue Origin space flight. What an amazing man, after flying he had a long career as an artist creating nearly 20.000 really interesting works of art.
 
I just saw an interview of Mr Dwight after his Blue Origin space flight. What an amazing man, after flying he had a long career as an artist creating nearly 20.000 really interesting works of art.
The fact that he wasn't a career aviator also points to the correct decision to not appoint him as an astronaut.

He is a damned good artist however.
 
Off-topic, but the thread reminded me of a good movie I watched the other day called Hidden Figures.

Some historical inaccuracies scattered about, but overall a good movie.
Not off topic, we're talking about the race by the U.S. to get a man into space ahead of the "communists" :)

I loved the movie "Hidden Figures" because it illustrated many of the ways that even Black people may not be aware of that we were systematically discriminated against.

I also love the fact that the main female characters all prevailed in the end - Mary Jackson finally became an engineer, Dorothy was finally promoted to a managerial position especially since she had been doing managerial work all along and of course Katherine Johnson was acknowledged and credited with her input on those reports that she co-wrote with the Jim Parsons character (aka "Sheldon Cooper" on the Big Bang Theory :) that he insisted on taking all the credit for originally.

Something that made a HUGE impression on me though is when Dorothy risked arrest by going to the segregated "Whites only" library in order to get her hands on a FORTRAN programming book and used that book to teach herself what she needed to know to operate and work with NASA's new IBM computers. She was making sure that she and the rest of the Black girls in their pool would have the skills needed to make themselves indispensable to their employer. And I appreciated the way the movie showed that she welcomed in the white women who were seeking training from her on the computer also.
 
I wonder how our country might have evolved differently if not for the interference that prevented Captain White from being included in the NASA space program back in 1963, despite having the backing of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Those who wanted to keep the NASA space program all white successfully did everything they could to exclude him and ultimately were successful. This news story is more about Captain White and his life history than about finally making it into space this weekend:

While at Edwards, Dwight was celebrated on the covers of Black magazines like Jet and Sepia. Hundred of letters hailing him as a hero poured in. But in training, he was treated with hostility by officers who resented his inclusion in the program and the White House’s involvement.​
This image released by National Geographic shows U.S. Air Force Capt. Ed Dwight, who is featured in a documentary “The Space Race, chronicling the stories of Black astronauts. (Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)

(Courtesy of Ed Dwight/National Geographic via AP)​
Former NASA astronaut Ed Dwight poses for a portrait to promote the National Geographic documentary film The Space Race during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)​
“They were all instructed to give me the cold shoulder,” Dwight says. “Yeager had a meeting with the students and the staff in the auditorium and announced it — that Washington was trying to shove this N-word down our throats.”​
Dwight describes one incident when he was the only pilot sent out to fly when film producers, along with Jimmy Stewart, came to the base to film the officers. He recounts private sessions with Yaeger “telling me how good the white guys were and how I shouldn’t be there.”​
“All that kind of stuff didn’t really bother me,” Dwight says. “The mission was the main thing. What people didn’t know was that I was being handled out of the West Wing of the White House the whole time I was there. Either every day or every other day: ‘How’s it going? What’s happening? What do you need?’”​
Yeager, who died in 2020, maintained Dwight simply wasn’t as good as the other pilots. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote: “From the moment we picked our first class, I was caught in a buzz saw of controversy involving a black student. The White House, Congress, and civil rights groups came at me with meat cleavers, and the only way I could save my head was to prove I wasn’t a damned bigot.”​
The tensions were also described in Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.”​
“Every week, it seemed like, a detachment of Civil Rights Division lawyers would turn up from Washington, from the Justice Department, which was headed by the president’s brother, Bobby,” wrote Wolfe. “The lawyers squinted in the desert sunlight and asked a great many questions about the progress and treatment of Ed Dwight and took notes.”​
This image released by National Geographic shows former astronaut Ed Dwight during the filming of the documentary The Space Race, which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP

Dwight during the filming of the documentary “The Space Race,” which chronicles the stories of Black astronauts. (Ryan Dearth/National Geographic via AP​
Dwight was among the 26 potential astronauts recommended to NASA by the Air Force. But in 1963, he wasn’t among the 14 selected. Dwight astronaut future took a more drastic turn when Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.​
“Everybody was wondering, ‘What’s going to happen with Dwight?’” says Dwight. “Everything changed.”​
Kennedy was killed on a Friday. By Monday, Dwight says, he had papers in his mailbox shipping him out to Germany. He quickly met with Bobby Kennedy in Washington, who had the Pentagon cancel those orders. A day after that, he had papers sending him to Canada.​
Ultimately, Dwight was stationed at Wright-Patterson in Ohio in January of 1964. He graduated the program and totaled some 9,000 hours of air time, but never became an astronaut. He left the Air Force in 1966.​
Asked if he was bitter about his experience, Dwight exclaims, “God no!”​
“Here you get a little 5-foot-four guy who flies airplanes and the next thing you know this guy is in the White House meeting all these senators and congressmen, standing in front of all these captains of industry and have them pat me on the back and shake my hand,” Dwight says. “Are you kidding me? What would I be bitter about? That opened the world to me.”​
Dwight initially landed at IBM, then he started a construction company. In 1977, he earned his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Denver. Much of his work is of great figures from Black history such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Barack Obama. Several of his sculptures have been flown into space, most recently one aboard the vessel Orion. NASA named an asteroid after him.
[news story continued at the link below]​
Thank you for starting this thread. I have been reading quite a bit about Ed Dwight, and I found that he was highly qualified with over 9000 hrs of flight time and was a test pilot at Edwards AFB when JFK selected him. Unfortunately his record of astronaut training and why he wasn't selected is still not released. To me that suggests his performance may have at least made him competitive to be selected for the mission. Otherwise you would think they would just release the information and say "See? He wasn't good enough." Anyway that's the way I read it.
 
Thank you for starting this thread. I have been reading quite a bit about Ed Dwight, and I found that he was highly qualified with over 9000 hrs of flight time and was a test pilot at Edwards AFB when JFK selected him. Unfortunately his record of astronaut training and why he wasn't selected is still not released. To me that suggests his performance may have at least made him competitive to be selected for the mission. Otherwise you would think they would just release the information and say "See? He wasn't good enough." Anyway that's the way I read it.
It’s hard to believe that he accumulated nine thousand flight hours in six years. He didn’t even get his pilot license until 1955 and was put into consideration for astronaut in 1961. That’s an average of THIRTY ONE flight hours a week, or six and a quarter flight hours per day in a five day week. Those numbers don’t add up. He also didn’t complete test pilot school until 1961and was picked for astronaut school the same year.
 
It’s hard to believe that he accumulated nine thousand flight hours in six years. He didn’t even get his pilot license until 1955 and was put into consideration for astronaut in 1961. That’s an average of THIRTY ONE flight hours a week, or six and a quarter flight hours per day in a five day week. Those numbers don’t add up. He also didn’t complete test pilot school until 1961and was picked for astronaut school the same year.
Correct, he has 9000 hours over his entire life. I am sitting on 11,000 hours over 60 years of flying.
 

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