His story deserves to be told!
Ed Dwight is finally getting recognition, thanks to the new National Geographic documentary, “The Space Race!” Initially chosen by the White House of John F. Kennedy, Dwight was selected to participate in Chuck Yeager’s test pilot program at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of California. That nurturing environment might have made Dwight the first Black man in space. However, he faced discrimination, and after Kennedy’s assassination, he was never selected for the space program.
Now, “The Space Race” is chronicling the stories of Black astronauts, including their pioneer, Dwight. “When I left, everyone said, ‘Well, that’s over. We got rid of that dude. He’s off the map,'” he said in an interview via Zoom from his home in Denver. “Now it comes back full force as one of these I-didn’t-know stories. It’s almost amusing to me that all this furor could come up. But I’m kind of glad it did because something happened here.”
The first Black man reached space in 1983. His name was Guion Bluford. Astronaut Bernard Harris, who became the first Black man to walk in space in 1995, spoke about what a difference it might have made if Dwight had become an astronaut in the 60s. “Space really allows us to realize the hope that’s within all of us as human beings,” Harris says. “So to see a Black man in space during that period in time, it would have changed things.”
“Ed is so important for everyone who’s followed after, to recognize and embrace the shoulders they stand on,” says Lisa Cortés, who directed the film with Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. “There’s the history we know and the history that’s not had the opportunity to be highlighted.”
Cover photo: Meet Ed Dwight, Who Was to Be The First Black Astronaut / Credit: Getty Images