Looking up into the ultra-blue sky, members of the crowd strained their eyes to locate the small plane. A large fireball then appeared and the object shot vertical and continued its climb for nearly three minutes. Then the show was over. But something dramatic, history-making, had just occurred and only a few people were privy to the event. The date was September 7, 1956. On this day, famed test pilot Iven Kincheloe flew his X-2 to an altitude of 126,000 feet—to the edge of outer space. He was the first person to reach that altitude and he returned to Earth as a national hero.1 In the same month, another test pilot was the first to fly at three times the speed of sound, but his test plane veered out of control and he died in the crash. The year 1956 was one of major historical significance and involved individuals smashing barriers and crossing lines that had never before been breached. These test flights and a host of other technological breakthroughs shattered important boundaries that kept humans tethered to this planet and helped fuel the space race that would result in some of humankind’s greatest achievements.
For most people, the idea of breaking a barrier or smashing through a boundary involves important scientific breakthroughs. Not every barrier, though, requires advanced technology to foster a breakthrough. Some barriers are created as a result of human ingenuity, and sometimes all it takes is one ordinary person to take a chance, to make a move at the right time and in the right place to forever alter a barrier. While most Americans in 1956 were captivated by dueling test pilots, there was a barrier of a different sort that was also being brought down. On June 5, 1956, Elvis Presley sang “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle television show and wowed the audience with gyrating hip movements that caused a scandal. Beyond his hips, Presley also crossed over the racial divide that existed in America at the time—a barrier main
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Publication information: Book title: First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System. Contributors: Chad R. Trulson - Author, James W. Marquart - Author. Publisher: University of Texas Press. Place of publication: Austin, TX. Publication year: 2009. Page number: 3.
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