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Harold Filan

The Air Force named four new aerospace pilots at a press conference in Los Angeles, including Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., the nation's first black astronaut, June 30, 1967
Vintage wire photograph on paper
6 11/16 x 8 15/16 in. (16.99 x 22.7 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Restricted gift of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Accession Number: P2021.13.1522

FIrst Black To Be Trained As Astronaut: the Air Force named four new aerospace research pilots today, including the nation's first black astronaut, to be trained for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. They were introduced at a press conference in Los Angeles where they are pictured with a model of the Titan 3C. Left to right: Major James A. Abramson, 34, Portland, Oregon; Lt. Col. Robert T. Herres, 34, Denver, Colorado; Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., 31, Chicago; Major Donald H. Peterson, 33, Winona, Mississippi.

Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. (1935-1967) was a United States Air Force officer and the first black astronaut. In June 1967, Lawrence successfully completed the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (Class 66B) at Edwards AFB, California. The same month, he was selected by the USAF as an astronaut in the Air Force's Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, thus becoming the country's first black astronaut. Lawrence and other MOL astronauts laughed when asked at the announcement "Will you have to sit in the back seat of the capsule?" When asked if his selection was historic for race relations in the United States, Lawrence answered "No, I don't think so. It's another one of those things that we look forward to in Civil Rights — normal progression." He said that he had faced problems like other blacks, but "Perhaps I have been more fortunate than the others in the opportunities." Donald H. Peterson, chosen for MOL with Lawrence, said "I can't speak for all the people in Mississippi" but that he was not reluctant to work with a black man. At age 32, Lawrence was killed in a plane crash at Edwards AFB on December 8, 1967. During his brief career, Lawrence earned the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Outstanding Unit Citation. On December 8, 1997, his name was inscribed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On recto: typewritten title and date.
On verso: manuscript title, manuscript date and newspaper stamp.

Wire photographs were originally transmitted over phonelines, then later, by satellite. They were first used in the early 1920s. Associated Press became a leader with this. After pigment touch-ups, etc., the print is put into a drum (like a drum scanner). The image gets converted into audio tones that are transmitted. The tones are received and beamed onto photo-sensitive paper. Wire photographs are copies without originals---they are hybrid, transmitted objects. (Britt Salvesen, Curator and Department Head, Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 30-31, 2022)

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  • Sheet Dimensions: 8 3/16 x 9 13/16 in. (20.74 x 24.92 cm) Measured by Martin, Jack
  • Image Dimensions: 6 11/16 x 8 15/16 in. (16.99 x 22.7 cm) Measured by Martin, Jack

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