In 1959, a courageous 9-year-old Ronald McNair tried to check out some books at his local Lake City, South Carolina library. The librarian said he couldn’t because he was Black. The boy sat on the counter, and refused to leave.
The librarian called his mother. And the police.
Thankfully, McNair got to leave with his mother, books in hand. History now remembers that inquisitive child as the second Black person to fly to space. He died in the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster in 1986.
In 2011, that same library was named after McNair. It was a full circle moment since that day in 1959. But the attempted criminalization and discouragement he experienced haven’t gone away.
Decades ago, 9-year-old Ronald McNair was told he couldn’t have control over his own education. That curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and imagination lives in Black youth today. And the fight over our access and freedom to decide what we can and can’t learn is far from over.