Blast Off

The early 70s are a fascinating moment. After the upheaval of the 60s and the backsliding of the 80s, there was a moment when things actually seemed to be getting better. The Vietnam War had come to an end, and the women’s movement was gaining ground with Roe vs. Wade and the passing of the ERA. Progress had been made in Civil Rights, and identity movements like Black Power were raising people’s consciousness. Environmentalism and nuclear proliferation were being talked about.

All these new thoughts were making it into the mainstream finally, too. You look back at early episodes of Sesame Street, for instance, and the cast is a rainbow of colors and abilities, everyone singing together, looking vaguely hippied-out and unpolished. Of course there were still problems, but for once there were glimmers of hope to be seen in pop culture– moments of progress that seem progressive, even by our standards today.

Case in point: the wonderful children’s book Blast Off from 1973. Blast Off is the story of Regina, a young black girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Her friends laugh at her crazy ideas, but she eventually makes it to the stars, floating among them in her white spacesuit, riding a rocket shooting long, psychedelic trails of fire.

This is only a few years after the moon landing, and space travel was still pretty novel, as was a woman of color in space. Sally Ride wouldn’t go up in the shuttle for another decade, and Mae Jemison nearly ten years later in 1992.

In addition to being way ahead of its time, the illustrations are absolutely charming, featuring bold, graphic shapes and groovy colors. Definitely the kind of space travel I can get behind. You gotta give it to 1973– they had some good ideas.

Via Brain Pickings.

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