The federal space agency NASA ushered in a new era by integrating workplaces across several regions in the Deep South. Morgan Watson, considered NASA’s first Black engineer, benefited from the progressive aims of President John F. Kennedy and used his wits and skill to become a pioneer.
After President Kennedy took office in 1961, he eventually began to lay the groundwork for workplace integration due to his support of civil rights and worker equality. One of the pathways Kennedy saw was NASA’s rapidly growing space program.
In 1964, Watson, then a student at Southern University, and Walter Applewhite, Wesley Carter, George Bourda, Tommy Dubone, William Winfield, Frank C. Williams Jr. all joined the staff at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Despite their brilliance and aptitude, the students were made to take tests that their white counterparts didn’t have to.
After qualifying for the jobs, the students were added to Marshall’s staff and became the only Black employees that were not janitorial or food services related. In fact, Watson once remarked that he didn’t even see Black clerical workers.