America’s First Black Astronauts: 15 People Who Paved the Way

Retired US Astronauts Visit China

Mae Carol Jemison, M.D.

Jemison was born Oct. 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. She graduated from Morgan Park High School in Chicago in 1973. Jemison received a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford and a doctorate in medicine from Cornell. She was a Peace Corps medical officer in Africa before joining NASA. With her journey aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992, Jemison was celebrated as the first African-American woman in space.




Col. Frederick Drew Gregory (U.S. Air Force, Retired)

Gregory was born Jan. 7, 1941, in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Anacostia High School, Washington, D.C., in 1958. Gregory was the first African-American to pilot a shuttle (Challenger in 1985) and the first Black commander of a shuttle, Discovery, in 1989. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, he has a master’s in information systems from George Washington University. He flew an amazing 577 helicopter missions in Vietnam.

Gregory led NASA’s Safety and Mission Assurance effort and later the Office of Space Flight. He retired as NASA’s deputy administrator in 2005.



Charles F. Bolden Official Portrait

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr. (U.S. Marines, Retired)

Bolden is the first African-American administrator of NASA, appointed in 2009. From Columbia, South Carolina, and born Aug. 19, 1946, he is a Naval Academy engineering graduate with a master’s from the University of Southern California. Bolden, who was a Marine Corps general, is a veteran of four shuttle missions and piloted Discovery during the launch of the Hubble telescope. Retired as an astronaut, Bolden was a commanding general in Operation Desert Thunder.