Ed Dwight

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Edward Joseph Dwight Jr.
Captain Edward J. Dwight Jr. in US Air Force.jpg
Dwight while serving as a Captain in the United States Air Force
Born (1933-09-09) September 9, 1933 (age 85)
Kansas City, Kansas
Nationality American
Alma mater Arizona State University & University of Denver
Known for Sculpture
Military career
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1953–1966
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Website eddwight.com

Edward Joseph (Ed) Dwight Jr. (born September 9, 1933) is an African-American sculptor and former test pilot who was the first African American to be trained as an astronaut.

Early life[edit]

Dwight was born in the Kansas City, Kansas area on September 9, 1933 to Edward Dwight Sr. and Georgia Baker Dwight. His father played second baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs.[1]

As a child, he was an avid reader and talented artist who was mechanically gifted and enjoyed working with his hands.[1]


Private Catholic Elementary and High Schools

  • National Honor Society
  • Scholarship to Kansas City Art Institute

Kansas City Community College, 1953

  • Associate of Arts Degree, Engineering

Arizona State University, 1957

  • Bachelor of Science Degree
  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Cum Laude

USAF Test Pilot School, 1961

  • Master of Science (Equivalent) Degree, Astronautics

U.S. Aerospace Research Pilot School, 1962

  • Astronaut Training

University of Denver, 1977

  • Master of Fine Art (MFA), Sculpture



Dwight joined the United States Air Force in 1953.[2] In 1957, while serving as an Air Force test pilot, he earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University.[1][2] He received the rank of captain while serving in the Air Force.[3]

Astronaut training[edit]

In 1961, the Kennedy administration selected Dwight as the first African American astronaut trainee,[2] at the suggestion of the National Urban League's Whitney Young. His selection garnered international media attention, and Dwight appeared on the covers of newsmagazines such as Ebony, Jet, and Sepia.[1][3]

Despite facing discrimination from other astronauts, Dwight persevered until the assassination of President Kennedy, after which government officials created a threatening atmosphere and he was assigned to be a liaison officer in Germany to a non-existent German test pilot school. As a result of this climate, he resigned from the Air Force in 1966.[1][3]


After resigning from the Air Force, Dwight worked as an engineer, in real estate, and for IBM.[2] He learned how to operate the University of Denver's metal casting foundry in the mid 1970s, and received a Master of Fine Arts from the University in 1977.[1][3]

Each of Dwight's pieces involves blacks and civil rights activists. Most of the pieces depict only black people, but the Underground Railroad Sculpture in Battle Creek also honors Erastus and Sarah Hussey, who were conductors on the Underground Railroad. Dwight's first major works was a commission in 1974 to create a sculpture of Colorado Lieutenant Governor George L. Brown. Soon after, he was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronze sculptures entreated "Black Frontier in the American West."[2]

Soon after his completion of his "Black Frontier in the American West" exhibit, Dwight created a series of over 70 bronze sculptures at the St. Louis Arch Museum at the request of the National Park Service. The series, "Jazz: An American Art Form", depicts the evolution of jazz and features jazz performers such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker.[2]

Dwight owns and operates Ed Dwight Studios, based in Denver, Colorado.[1]

He is recognized for innovative use of negative space in sculpting.[1]

Notable sculptures[edit]

Dwight has created over 100 public art sculptures, including:[4]

Name Picture Location Unveiled Notes
African American History Monument South Carolina African American History Monument (7917141422).jpg South Carolina State House grounds – Columbia, South Carolina March 29, 2001 [1][4]
Alex Haley / Kunta Kinte Memorial Alex Haley-Kunta Kinte Memorial (1398338293).jpg The City Dock – Annapolis, Maryland December 1999 [1][4]
Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial Constitution Gardens – Washington, D.C. 1991 [1]
Captain Walter Dyett Statue Chicago, Illinois [4]
Concerto Folly TheaterKansas City, Missouri [4]
Dr. Benjamin Mays Morehouse College Commons – Atlanta, Georgia [4]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Anne Arundel Community CollegeAnnapolis, Maryland 2006 [4]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Houston, Texas 2007 [4]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial City Park – Denver, Colorado 2002 [1][4]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Coretta Scott King Allentown, Pennsylvania 2011 [4]
Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad - Detroit - front.jpg Philip A. Hart Plaza – Detroit, Michigan 2001 [1][4][5]
George Washington Williams bust Ohio StatehouseColumbus, Ohio [1]
Hank Aaron Atlanta–Fulton County StadiumAtlanta, Georgia 1982 [4]
Inauguration of History and Hope – Inaugural Sculpture Scene of President Barack Obama Touring exhibit 2010 [4]
Jack Trice Memorial Iowa State UniversityAmes, Iowa [4]
Jazz: An American Art Form St. Louis Arch Museum – St. Louis, Missouri [2]
John Hope Franklin Tower of Reconciliation Tulsa, Oklahoma [4]
Mayor Harold Washington Harold Washington Cultural Center – Chicago, Illinois 2004 [4]
Memorial to Rosa Parks, Mother of the Civil Rights Movement Grand Rapids, Michigan 2010 [4]
Mother of Africa Chapel Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington, D.C. 1997 [4]
Mr. Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass National Historic Site – Washington, D.C. 1980 Dwight's first commission[4]
Quincy Jones Sculpture Park Chicago, Illinois [1]
Soldiers Memorial Lincoln UniversityJefferson City, Missouri 2007 [4]
Texas African American History Memorial Texas State CapitolAustin, Texas 2016 [6] Erected by the Texas African American History Memorial Foundation.
Tower of Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad Underground Railroad Monument - Windsor, Ontario.JPG Civic Esplanade – Windsor, Ontario 2001 [1][4][5]
Underground Railroad Memorial The Underground Railroad Sculpture in Battle Creek, Michigan (2981829830).jpg Kellogg Foundation headquarters – Battle Creek, Michigan 1994 [4]
United House of Prayer for All People Lincoln Cemetery – Suitland, Maryland 2008 [4]
William E. Smith, Director of Airports Denver, Colorado [4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Ed Dwight". thehistorymakers.com. The HistoryMakers. June 19, 2002. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Behind the Scenes". eddwight.com. Ed Dwight Studios, Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d White, Frank III. (February 1984). "The Sculptor Who Would Have Gone into Space". Ebony. Google Books. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Memorials & Public Art". eddwight.com. Ed Dwight Studios, Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  5. ^ a b "Underground Railroad Statuary and Memorial". detroit1701.org. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  6. ^ Texas State Preservation Board

External links[edit]

  • Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  • DiMeo, Nate, The Ballad of Captain Dwight, Episode 75, The Memory Palace, August 28, 2015. An episode of The Memory Palace podcast about Edward Dwight, centered on his astronaut training. Includes parts of an interview.