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At Age 9, The Late Ronald McNair Was Kicked Out Of A Library That’s Now Named After Him

Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair was kicked out of the library when he was nine years old because he was Black. That same structure is now named in his honor.

McNair’s Legacy

Throughout his life, McNair was confronted with the harshness of racism, and his resilience against the times he lived in lives on even decades after his death.

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Due to segregation in the South, McNair was denied the ability to check out books from his local library in 1959. As a young man raised in South Carolina at the time, this type of behavior was not unusual; however, McNair took a stand against the ill treatment he received because of the color of his skin.

Rather than leaving the facility, as the librarian had advised, a 9-year-old McNair doubled down on his desire to check out the books and sat on the counter, refusing to leave.

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Ultimately, the police were called and they told the librarian to allow him to check out the books.

The rest is, as one would say, history.

Crew Challenger mission Christa McAuliffe Gregory Jarvis November 1985

Black Excellence

From sports to music, McNair excelled at everything he put his mind to. Therefore, it came as no surprise when he set the goal to obtain his Ph.D. 10 years after high school graduation.

After graduating from MIT, he worked as a staff physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California.

McNair’s work included “the invention of lasers for isotope separation and photochemistry, employing nonlinear interactions in low-temperature liquids and optical pumping techniques,” according to his NASA profile. He also studied electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications, the development of ultrafast infrared detectors, ultraviolet atmospheric remote sensing, and the scientific foundations of martial arts.”

Making History

His physics expertise, combined with his numerous achievements in the field, ultimately led NASA to choose McNair from a pool of thousands of applicants to join its 1978 space shuttle program.

He became the second Black person to fly into space in 1984.

Still Making History

McNair was honored just one day after the 16th anniversary of his death in 2011, at the same library that turned him away as a child because of the color of his skin.


The Ronald McNair Life History Center was renamed on January 29, 2011.

It includes a timeline of his life up until his untimely death in 1986, when he was one of seven people killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff over the Atlantic Ocean.



Written by How Africa News

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