Space Race: African American Newspapers Respond to Sputnik and Apollo 11

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Using African American newspapers, this study examines the consensual opinion of articles and editorials regarding two events associated with the space race. One event is the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The second is the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. Space Race investigates how two scientific accomplishments achieved during the Cold War and the civil rights movement stimulated debate within the newspapers, and that ultimately centered around two questions: why the Soviets were successful in launching a satellite before the US, and what benefits could come from landing on the moon. Anti-intellectualism, inferior public ... continued below

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Thompson, Mark A. December 2007.

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  • Thompson, Mark A.

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Description

Using African American newspapers, this study examines the consensual opinion of articles and editorials regarding two events associated with the space race. One event is the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The second is the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. Space Race investigates how two scientific accomplishments achieved during the Cold War and the civil rights movement stimulated debate within the newspapers, and that ultimately centered around two questions: why the Soviets were successful in launching a satellite before the US, and what benefits could come from landing on the moon. Anti-intellectualism, inferior public schools, and a lack of commitment on the part of the US government are arguments offered for analysis by black writers in the two years studied. This topic involves the social conditions of African Americans living within the United States during an era when major civil rights objectives were achieved. Also included are considerations of how living in a "space age" contributed to thoughts about civil rights, as African Americans were now living during a period in which science fiction was becoming reality. In addition, this thesis examines how two scientific accomplishments achieved during this time affected ideas about education, science, and living conditions in the U.S. that were debated by black writers and editors, and subsequently circulated for readers to ponder and debate. This paper argues that black newspapers viewed Sputnik as constituting evidence for an inferior US public school system, contrasted with the Soviet system. Due to segregation between the races and anti-intellectual antecedents in America, black newspapers believed that African Americans were an "untapped resource" that could aid in the Cold War if their brains were utilized. The Apollo moon landing was greeted with enthusiasm because of the universal wonder at landing on the moon itself and the prowess demonstrated by the collective commitment and organization necessary to achieve such an objective by decades end. However, consistently accompanying this adulation is disappointment that domestic problems were not given the same type of funding or national commitment.

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  • December 2007

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  • May 2, 2008, 3:20 p.m.

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  • Dec. 15, 2008, 12:47 p.m.

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Thompson, Mark A. Space Race: African American Newspapers Respond to Sputnik and Apollo 11, thesis, December 2007; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5115/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .