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Feb. 19 lecture, film screening to celebrate African American’s contributions to space exploration

February 06, 2020

Contact: Michael Tullier, APR, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Feb. 11 Update: the time and location of the presentation has been moved to 4:30 p.m. in the Kenney Hall Bioethics Auditorium

For nearly 35 years, Carl McNair has been sharing stories that celebrate the contributions African-American “heroes” and “sheroes” have made to the U.S. space program. The stories of these highly trained and extremely dedicated aerospace and STEM professionals are rarely shared in our history books or in schools.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, McNair will share those stories — including one very personal account — during a lecture entitled, “From Slave Ship to Spaceship: African-American Pioneers in Space.” The lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Kenney Hall Bioethics Auditorium.

Crew of STS-51-L, including McNair (seated, far right); credit: NASA

The Jan. 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is seared into our nation’s collective memory. McNair’s brother, physicist Dr. Ronald E. McNair, was among the five NASA astronauts, one payload specialist and one civilian schoolteacher who died 73 seconds after liftoff. McNair recounts his brother’s inspirational story of poverty, discrimination, determination and unwavering faith in his best-selling book, In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair-Astronaut.

McNair’s presentation will also include an exclusive sneak-peak screening of the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier, which will premiere on Feb. 24. It charts the country’s efforts to launch the first African-American astronaut into space at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Like his brother, McNair is a graduate of North Carolina A&T University. He is the founder and CEO of McNair Achievement Programs LLC, which designs, develops and implements successful educational programs that promote academic excellence and personal achievement.

In addition to part of the university’s Black History Month programming, McNair’s lecture is part of its annual Lyceum Series, which leverages artistic, literary and cultural programs to spotlight contemporary societal topics for students and the surrounding community. For more information about the series and updates on future presenters, visit

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