Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Little Boy in the Library


Ronald McNair was African-American. For this reason, he was asked to leave a segregated library. He later became a NASA astronaut and the very same library is now named after him.

HONK IF YOU WANT THIS TO BE DONALD GLOVER'S NEXT MOVIE.

Space Force, or The Force in space??

McNair's richly complex and accomplished life deserves a biopic more than most, and I’m not just saying that because I’m bored with the actor they got to play Neil Armstrong. Overall, I could easily stand on top of a mountain and shout MOAR SPACE TRAVELER MOVIES until I get lava-larynx.

Having charted the missions & birth place and birth date of every astronaut who ever flew a mission, I've known the basics of Ronald McNair's career for years: he was the first to play a saxophone in space on STS-41-B (1984), he was the first astronaut of the Bahá'í Faith to fly a mission, and he was in charge of chemical experiments and Cinema 360 filming about the Space Shuttle. He was also a Trekkie, and I feel a kinship with all fellow Trekkies, of course. I even visited his center at the Aeronautics & Astronautics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his PhD in Physics.

Ronald McNair Building MIT Boston

However, it wasn’t until I researched libraries for Nerdglorious Trivia that I learned of his civil rights resistance at the once-segregated Lake City Public Library in South Carolina. In 1959, around the time he was in fourth grade, McNair attempted to gather science-based materials, whereupon a Caucasian woman told him "This library is not for coloreds," and called the local police.

I'll repeat that. A librarian called the police. On a 9-year-old boy. For trying to check out SCIENCE BOOKS. Long before Permit Patty and Barbecue Becky, Library Lisa was on the job! Unfortunately, officers could have easily sided with her in this era, and lawfully removed Ronald from the public space, because signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was still half a decade away. His mother, Pearl, was also summoned; both she and the officers encouraged the librarian to issue Ronald a library card as she did for the white children. Pearl McNair assured the librarian that her son would take good care of the books, and the librarian reluctantly let the elementary-schooler borrow the ones about flight that he had chosen.

Ronald's Big Mission - Children's Book

Decades later, after his untimely death in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the library was dedicated to his memory. In addition, a children's book called "Ron's Big Mission" offers a fictionalized account of the library encounter.

Other things named in his honor? McNair Crater on Earth’s Moon, his hometown public memorial, a chapel, 2 streets, 4 University buildings, 2 parks, 20 schools, 152 scholarships, a theatre, a Masonic Lodge, and a public playground.

Can't seem to find the actual name of that librarian.

Ronald McNair playing saxophone in space
Ronald Erwin McNair (October 21, 1950 – January 28, 1986)
(click for video of life + mission photographs)