Civil Rights in the Space Age: Richard Paul and Steven Moss Come to BookPeople

We are thrilled to have Richard Paul and Steven Moss in our store Wednesday, July 1 at 7PM to discuss We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program.

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Just as the civil rights movement was lifting off, so was the American Space Age. While their ambitions were beginning to reach far beyond the atmosphere, Americans were also confronting the bitter legacy of slavery, discrimination, and violence against African Americans. In an overlooked aspect of their legacies, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations made sure the federal equal employment opportunity laws were applied at NASA, and thousands of technology and research positions were created that provided some relief to poverty-stricken Deep South.

Illustrating the role NASA played as an agent of social change, We Could Not Fail profiles ten pioneer African American space workers, recounting how these technicians, mathematicians, engineers, and an astronaut candidate surmounted barriers to move, in some cases literally, from the cotton fields to the launching pad. The authors vividly describe what it was like to be the sole African American in a NASA work group and how these brave and determined men also helped to transform Southern society by integrating colleges, patenting new inventions, holding elective office, and reviving and governing defunct towns. Adding new names to the roster of civil rights heroes and a new chapter to the story of space exploration, We Could Not Fail is the largely unknown story of how shooting for the stars helped to overcome segregation on earth.


A former producer of The Diane Rehm Show, Richard Paul is an award-winning independent public radio documentary producer whose work includes Race and the Space Race, about the first African Americans in the space program. Paul was the 2012–2013 Verville Fellow in Space History at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His feature stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and PRI’s Studio 360.

Steven Moss is Associate Professor of English at Texas State Technical College and a Fellow of the Kellogg Institute. His master’s thesis, “NASA and Racial Equality in the South, 1961–1968” (Texas Tech University, 1997), was one of the first academic works on the topic.


The authors with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.


“The black engineers, scientists, computer programmers, would-be astronauts and other pioneers who desegregated the space program were as courageous as any civil rights marchers, and this is the first time their story has been told in detail.”The New York Times
This account of 10 pioneers, told against the backdrop of the civil rights era, highlights the intersection of technology and race in U.S. history, continuing innovations in technology, and the struggle of minorities to participate.” – Booklist
“Even history and space program buffs should find insight in We Could Not Fail‘s fresh look at a well-treaded era.” – Esquire

We hope you will join us Wednesday, July 1!

2 thoughts on “Civil Rights in the Space Age: Richard Paul and Steven Moss Come to BookPeople

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