Honoring The Man Who Could’ve Been The First African-American In Space

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Photo: Ed Dwight Jr in usaf
Ed Dwight Jr. in his days as a U.S. Air Force captain.

This story originally aired in August, 2015. We re-aired it today because of an online petition asking the federal government to make Dwight an honorary astronaut.

Astronauts from around the country will be in Denver for a reunion on Saturday. Their common bond is that they all followed in the footsteps of Guy Bluford, who in 1983 became the first African-American to travel into space.

Had history taken a different turn, another man might have cracked the race barrier a generation earlier. In the 1960s, Ed Dwight Jr. worked hard to become an astronaut, but didn't make the cut, sparking allegations of racism. Dwight instead became a celebrated Denver sculptor.

He'll be at the reunion and gala on Saturday, Aug. 29, honoring "achievements and contributions of the black stars in space." The event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum will be hosted by Shades of Blue, a Colorado nonprofit that mentors kids who want to pursue technology careers, including in space. "Star Trek" TV series actress Nichelle Nichols will receive an award named for Dwight for her work to further African-Americans in space.

Dwight joined Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel along with Richard Paul, co-author of "We Could Not Fail," a book highlighting the struggles and successes of African Americans in NASA's early days.