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Ron McNair

By January 30, 2011

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Lake City, South Carolina, recently built a memorial statue of Ron McNair, an African-American astronaut who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986.

According to the newspaper The State, McNair grew up in the segregated South--Lake City, South Carolina. When he was nine years old, he wanted to learn more about science and math than he was being taught in school. So, he went to the library. The librarian told him that he couldn't check out the books he wanted because the library only served whites.

McNair's reaction? He refused to leave until the library checked the books out to him. The librarian called the police and his mother, but McNair won the day. He got the books he needed to master advanced science and math and singlehandedly desegregated an institution to boot.

McNair went on to win a scholarship to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University, where he excelled. For graduate school, McNair attended MIT, receiving a Ph.D. in physics in 1976.

McNair entered NASA in 1978; he was one of the first African-American astronauts. He went on his first mission in 1984, where he worked on a device for retrieving satellites. He also snuck on board a saxophone--he was an accomplished player, and composer Jean-Michel Jarre named the last piece on his album Rendez-vous after McNair who was to have participated in a live concert during the 1986 Challenger mission.

The Challenger exploded on its way to what would have been McNair's second trip to space on January 28, 1986.


January 31, 2011 at 10:13 pm
(1) Tim says:

Lisa,I think this is so cool.I still love history.I didnt have much black history in school.

February 2, 2011 at 9:44 am
(2) Tracy says:

Thank you for sharing this information. I am impressed to learn more about his life and tell my children about him. May God Bless you!!

February 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm
(3) Tira says:

i think black hatory is the best thing the word have at this monment and that is way .

February 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm
(4) Concerned says:

The sad part is that there has to be a “Black History Month”. History is history, period! Like one of the posters stated, “I didn’t have much black history in school”. This should not have been so. Everything that happens daily is history! People who write “history” have a tendency to write it their way and leave out significant parts to make themselves look good. No one likes to know of bad pasts, but nevertheless, it is still HISTORY! You cannot sugar coat bad decisions or omit wrongful acts. They will only haunt you later on!

February 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm
(5) Elynne says:

This is a wonderful piece. Thank you for printing it. After having witnessed on tv the explosion of the challenger that day. I still feel a twinge of sadness when It is mentioned. However, it is good to know that Ron McNair accomplished so much. Many children need to know about his perserverance, and how he never gave up. He died doing something he loved and he deserves a place in not only Black History, but History period.

February 11, 2011 at 5:13 am
(6) solomon says:

lz contact me on my email plz i need to

February 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm
(7) Cheryl says:

I live in South Carolina and was not aware of this amazing story until recently. There is a new children’s book called Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden that tells the history making story of McNair’s trip to the library that day. It’s a wonderful read and I am very excited to share it with my kindergarten class!

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