THE SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL EXPLORES THE UNTOLD STORY AND JOURNEY OF RACIAL EQUALITY IN SPACE WITH "BLACK IN SPACE: BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER"
Compiled By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The race to get to space is long over, but buried in time is the revelatory story of the world's first black astronauts which is chronicled in the documentary “Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” premiering Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on the Smithsonian Channel.
It can currently be streamed.
In the fall of 1957, America found itself rocked by two earth-shattering events: the USSR's launch of Sputnik, the first satellite, and just a month earlier, the violent Little Rock Nine protests in Arkansas. The Soviet Union had just won two quick victories in the Cold War; with the battle for civil rights raging in the West, they exploited the unrest and racism in America with propaganda campaigns aimed at discrediting not only America's failures at improving civil rights, but also its fledging efforts to diversify their space crews.
A supposed land of diversity, opportunity and hope, the United States had yet to get a black man into the NASA program. President John F. Kennedy was determined to regroup on both fronts. Along with supercharging the space program, he ordered the Pentagon to find a black astronaut.
“Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” reflects on the fraught and long journey it took to achieve diversity in the skies and features the personal stories of several African American pioneers of the Space Race including Edward Dwight, a U.S. Air Force pilot and early NASA contender; Guion Bluford, the first African American to go to space; Frederick Gregory, the first African American to pilot and command a NASA mission; and Ronald McNair, who tragically perished in the Challenger disaster.
In addition, the special also features a rare interview with the Soviet Union's contender in the race, Cuban Air Force pilot Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, who rose from a humble childhood as an orphan living in the shadow of Guantanamo to become a cosmonaut and national hero.
"Our family had gone from slavery to space in four generations," says Carl McNair, Ronald McNair's brother. "And we thought that was something special."
“Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” is produced by Brook Lapping Productions, Ltd. for Smithsonian Networks in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is directed by Emmy winning filmmaker Laurens Grant, with Roy Ackerman as executive producer for Brook Lapping. Charles Poe and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.
ABOUT THE SMITHSONIA CHANNEL:
The Smithsonian Channel is a ViacomCBS Inc. network and is where curiosity lives, inspiration strikes and wonders never cease. This is the place for awe-inspiring stories, powerful documentaries and amazing factual entertainment, available in HD and 4K Ultra HD across multiple platforms. Smithsonian Channel, winner of Emmy(R) and Peabody awards for its programming, is the home of popular genres such as air and space, travel, history, science, nature and pop culture.
Among the network's offerings are hit series including Aerial America, America in Color, America's Hidden Stories, Apollo's Moon Shot, The Pacific War in Color and Air Disasters, as well as critically-acclaimed specials that include The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, Black Hole Hunters and Princess Diana's Wicked Stepmother.
Smithsonian Networks also operates Smithsonian Channel Plus(TM), a subscription video streaming service delivering over a thousand hours of the Channel's stunning and diverse library of documentaries and series in HD and 4K Ultra HD. Smithsonian Channel is also available internationally in Canada, Singapore, Latin America, the UK and Ireland. To learn more, go to smithsonianchannel.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Editor’s Note: Information used in this report obtained by the Smithsonian Channel.
IN OTHER TV NEWS:
CHINONYE CHUKWU TO DIRECT FIRST TWO EPISODES OF HBO MAX'S LIMITED SERIES "AMERICANAH"
HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia set to launch in the spring of 2020, recently announced that Sundance award-winning director Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) will direct the first two episodes of its limited drama “Americanah.”
Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's best-selling novel of the same name, the 10-episode limited series, “Americanah” will star Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o (“12 Years a Slave;” “Black Panther”), Zackary Momoh (“Harriet”), Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”), and Tony Award nominee Corey Hawkins (“In the Heights,” “BlacKkKlansman”).
Tony Award nominee Danai Gurira (“Black Panther” and “Eclipsed”) will serve as showrunner and writer.
“Americanah” tells the story of Ifemelu (Nyong'o), a young, beautiful, self-assured woman raised in Nigeria, who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze (Momoh). Living in a military-ruled country, they each depart for the west. Ifemelu heads for America, where she finds academic success, but is forced to grapple for the first time with what it means to be black. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous undocumented life in London. A highly lauded tale that has become a leader in the cultural conversation, Americanah is an incredible exploration of the human experience that crosses three continents to give an empathetic, compelling view of the complex realities of race, politics, immigration and identity.
"Fresh off her Sundance Grand Jury Prize for “Clemency,” we are thrilled to have Chinonye direct the first two episodes of “Americanah,” says Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max.
"When she spoke so passionately about what it meant to her as a Nigerian filmmaker to tell this story, we knew we had the perfect partner to work alongside Danai, Lupita, and Plan B."
Nigerian born Chukwu wrote and directed the film “Clemency,” starring Alfre Woodard, which was released in December 2019 to rave reviews. She received the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2019 for the film, making history as the first black woman to receive this award. This year, Clemency was nominated for two Gotham awards along with Chukwu being nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay, Woodard for best actress and Clemency for best feature.
Chukwu is attached to direct an adaptation of former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown's memoir, “A Taste of Power.” She is repped by CAA, Gochman Law Group and Grandview.
The series will be executive produced by showrunner and writer Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o for Eba Productions, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, Andrea Calderwood (Generation Kill) for Potboiler Television, Didi Rea and Danielle Del for D2 Productions, Nancy Won (Jessica Jones) and Erika L. Johnson (The Village).
ABOUT HBO MAX:
HBO Max is WarnerMedia's direct-to-consumer offering debuting in spring 2020. With 10,000 hours of curated premium content anticipated at launch, HBO Max will offer powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs and movies, and fan favorites from Warner Media's rich library including Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. Sign up for updates at HBOMax.com.
Editor's Note: Information used in this report obtained from HBO MAX publicity department.