James Jennings discusses the early integration of NASA

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Steve Johnson, left, talks with James Jennings, right

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – James Jennings graduated from Alabama A&M University in 1968 but began working for the Marshall Space Flight Center as a computer operator in 1967 when he was still a co-op student.  He is currently retired from NASA and has an aerospace consulting firm.

Jennings is mentioned several times in the book We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul and Steven Moss about the role of African Americans in NASA during the Saturn V era.  While Jennings was not the first African American to work at NASA, when he started the majority of his co-workers were white.

“Really, that was the first all white organization that I had ever been a part of.  I went to a segregated high school and A&M was pretty much segregated at the time.  So, it was a whole different environment.  I was kind of apprehensive about how it was going to be.  I had the opportunity to work with some other white kids that were my age and I learned that I knew just as much about math and stuff as they did.  That part of the integration was good.  I was concerned about discrimination when I first went to an environment like that and any time that I thought it might come up, my way of handling that was to just go talk to the folks,” Jennings said about his early days at NASA.

Watch the rest of our conversation with James Jennings in our four-part interview posted in this story on WHNT.com:

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