In 1961, Air Force Captain Ed Dwight became the first black astronaut trainee, assigned directly by the Kennedy Administration. As a candidate, he faced discrimination but was able to overcome adversity until the assassination of John F. Kennedy, after which government officials created a hostile environment and reassigned Dwight to a non-existent test pilot school in Germany. He resigned from the Air Force in 1966.
In 1967, Robert Henry Lawrence became the first black man to complete astronaut training, but died later that same year while instructing an Air Force flight test trainee.
A U.S. Air Force officer, Guion Stewart Bluford became the first black astronaut to enter space. Guion was chosen by NASA out of thousands of applicants, and his space career spanned 24 years. He spent a little more than a total of 28 days in space.
In 1985, Frederick Gregory became the first black astronaut to pilot a space craft and later to command a mission. In 1992, Mae Carol Jemison became the first black female to travel in space. Two years later, Bernard A. Harris, Jr., made history as the first black astronaut to walk in space.
According to a 2012 informational sheet, NASA states a total of 321 astronauts have been selected for its intensive Astronaut Candidate training program. At that time, the number of black astronauts totaled 16, or roughly 5 percent.