02/27/2015

NASA and Integration During the Civil Rights Movement

12:17 minutes

Christine Darden in the control room of NASA Langley's Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel in 1975. Photo by NASA
Christine Darden in the control room of NASA Langley’s Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel in 1975. Photo by NASA

Morgan Watson started working at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 1964. He described it as “its own little world.” But the facility, located in Huntsville, Alabama, was mere hours from Selma and Montgomery—two prominent battlegrounds in the Civil Rights Movement. Watson himself contributed to a little known piece of Civil Rights era history: He was one of NASA’s first African American engineers. He’s profiled in the book We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program, by Steven Moss and Richard Paul.

Racial integration occurred at NASA facilities throughout the South in the 1960s. Christine Darden, for example (pictured above), was an African-American mathematician who joined the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia in 1967. Watson and Darden, along with Steven Moss, join Science Friday to discuss the work of African-American scientists at NASA during the Civil Rights Movement.

Segment Guests

Steven Moss

Steven Moss is author of We Could Not Fail (University of Texas Press, 2015) and an associate professor at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas.

Morgan Watson

Morgan Watson is founder and president of Minority Engineers of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Christine Darden

Christine Darden is former director of the Office of Strategic Communications and Education at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Meet the Producer

About Becky Fogel

Becky Fogel is a newscast host and producer at Texas Standard, a daily news show broadcast by KUT in Austin, Texas. She was formerly Science Friday’s production assistant.

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