In 1959, Ronald Erwin McNair walked into a South Carolina library. The 9-year-old aspiring astronaut wanted to check out a calculus book, but a librarian threatened to call the police if he didn't leave.
Years later, McNair was selected to become only the second black American to travel to space, overcoming segregation, poverty and stereotypes in an intellectual act of resistance that inspired a generation. McNair, a physicist, died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.
McNair's story and those of other black astronauts are shared in a new documentary, "Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier," scheduled to air Monday on the Smithsonian Channel.
Guion Bluford would become the first black astronaut in space. The aerospace engineer made it to space in 1983 as a member of the crew of the Orbiter Challenger, nearly 20 years after President John F. Kennedy sought to get a black man in space.
"They really are the first of the first," filmmaker Laurens Grant said. "And they are the elite of the elite."
New chief of N.Y. Film Festival is named
Eugene Hernandez will succeed Kent Jones as the director of the New York Film Festival, becoming only the fifth person to lead the esteemed Lincoln Center showcase for cinema in its 57-year history. Lesli Klainberg, executive director of Film at Lincoln Center, named Hernandez to the top position at arguably the nation's most revered film festival. Hernandez will oversee the festival along with writer and film curator Dennis Lim, the festival's new director of programming. Lim already presides over year-round programming for Film at Lincoln Center. Hernandez, who co-founded IndieWire, was first plucked away from the independent film website in 2010, when he joined Film at Lincoln Center as director of digital strategy. For the past six years, he's served as deputy director. Now, Hernandez will take the reins of the festival that he first attended as a 20-something moviegoer in the mid-90s and later frequented as a reporter.
Comedy: Jennifer Lawrence will star in the Adam McKay comedy "Don't Look Up" for Netflix. McKay, who wrote the script, will direct the film about two low-level astronomers who go on a media tour to warn of an asteroid heading for Earth. Lawrence, 29, took a roughly two-year hiatus from acting but has returned to work. She recently wrapped production on an untitled film directed by Lila Neugebauer.
Turner note: Britain's new 20-pound (about $29) note went into circulation Thursday — one that replaces the image of pioneering 18th-century economist Adam Smith with "the painter of light," artist J.M.W. Turner. The polymer banknote features a self-portrait of Turner alongside his painting "The Fighting Temeraire."