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Ed Dwight Jr. was the first African American astronaut candidate for what is now NASA. Dwight joined the air force in 1953 as a test pilot. After earning his aeronautical engineering degree, Dwight was referred to President John F. Kennedy as a space candidate by Whitney Young Jr.  In 1962, Dwight was entered into the U.S. astronaut training program as an experimental test pilot in preparation to become the first African American astronaut candidate.

Dwight’s training as a space candidate was full of racism. His then Supervisor, Col. Chuck Yeager, urged him to quit. Days after President Kennedy’s assassination, Dwight was dropped from the program and sent to Germany to work as a liaison for a non-existent German test pilot school. He was later court marshaled after refusing to fly his plane when he had heard that it was made unsafe – purposely.

Dwight was born in Kansas City, Kan. in 1933. He received his bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University in 1957 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Denver, 1977.

After leaving with an honorable discharge from the military, Dwight took a job at the IBM Corporation as a Marketing Representative & Systems Engineer. After leaving IBM, Dwight became an aviation consultant in Dallas, TX. After starting a restaurant chain, he focused his attention on Dwight Development Associates, Inc., a real estate land development and construction company. Even prior to his educaiton at the University of Denver,  Dwight was commissioned to create a sculpture of Colorado’s first black lieutenant governor, George Brown in 1974. Even though he didn’t have any formal training, the governor insisted that he build the sculpture. This experience led to Dwight’s collection entitled “Black Frontier in the American West.” The collection was such a success, Dwight was urged to make “Jazz: An American Art Form,” depicting over 70 bronzed sculptures including Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.

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7 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Ed Dwight Jr., First Black Astronaut Candidate

  1. dan on said:

    Huh? Since when do blacks “come through” and don’t get credit or promotion? Millions of blacks underperform in their in their affirmative action unionized public sector makework jobs and get rave reviews and promotions. Are you kidding? If a black ACTUALLY does something well, they’re elevated to mythical status and canonized.

  2. Andy- NYC on said:

    I heard the Ed Dwight story a bit differently. He had originally failed out of the Space School, but the White House insisted that the first graduation class have at least one black man. So Dwight was given tutoring for several months, but still failed out. That’s when he sued on account of discrimination. Yeager showed the NAACP lawyers Dwights test scores, and that was it for his discrimination case. So, which is true?

    • That is exactly right. The White House was so hysterical that they sent Civil Rights lawyers down to the flight line weekly to “review” the situation with Ed. Yeager worked hard with Ed, giving him personal flight instruction and Tutoring (See the Book: “The Right Stuff”) and Ed still didn’t make the grade, so the entire program was expanded to include all candidates, including Ed.

      Quote: “Meanwhile, Colonel Yeager’s dim view of Dwight’s abilities grew. Yeager later maintained that Dwight’s abilities were so lacking “we set up a special tutoring program to get him through the academics, as I recall, he lacked the engineering [background] that the other students had.”

      Yeager further observes that Dwight worked hard, as did his tutors, but adds that “Dwight just couldn’t hack it… didn’t keep up in flying.” Yeager claims to have worked with Dwight on his flying, but he noted that “our students were flying at levels really beyond his experience. The only prejudice against Dwight,” Yeager recalls, wagging a literary finger,” was the conviction that he was not qualified to be in the school” in the first place. (p. 20)”

      Political pressure kept him in a position he was unqualified for till Kennedy die, then he was removed because he never should have been there in the first place.

      This site is an interesting little bit of re-write of History.

  3. cedric on said:

    I wish someone will remove the Kia add off the page . Everytime I went to read an article that krappy Kia add is blocking half of the article. Please some one.

  4. Johnny Perry on said:

    I understand how career racism is done in the American work place. I too as a strong Black man get the same treatment on the job. We come thru when needed but never get the credit or the promotion. Just look at the President.

    John Perry

    • dan on said:

      Huh? Since when do blacks “come through” and don’t get credit or promotion? Millions of blacks underperform in their in their affirmative action unionized public sector makework jobs and get rave reviews and promotions. Are you kidding? If a black ACTUALLY does something well, they’re elevated to mythical status and canonized.
      And Erica Taylor, it’s “court-martialed” not “court-marshaled.”
      Are you just another affirmative action journalist grad who got wafted up through Columbia like President Odumbo?

    • dan on said:

      Huh? Since when do blacks “come through” and don’t get credit or promotion? Millions of blacks underperform in their affirmative action, unionized, public sector makework jobs and get rave reviews and promotions. Are you kidding? If a black ACTUALLY does something well, they’re elevated to mythical status and canonized.
      And Erica Taylor, it’s “court-martialed” not “court-marshaled.”
      Are you just another affirmative action journalist grad who got wafted up through Columbia like President Odumbo?

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