port of harlem magazine
anthony driver designs 202-400-6140
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez
First Black Cosmonaut (January 29, 1942 - ) Cuba
Nov 16 – Nov 29, 2023
Praising the Past

The Honoree

The world’s first Black cosmonaut is Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. The Russians launched the Vietnam War veteran and a Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko into space aboard Soyuz 38 on September 18, 1980. Méndez’s space suit is preserved at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.

Cuba, USA?

Both Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams expressed interest in acquiring Cuba from Spain during their presidencies. James Polk offered Spain $100 million for Cuba in 1848, a proposal proffered by Secretary of State James Buchanan. The effort was renewed again by President Franklin Pierce, a New Hampshire Democrat whom some described as “a northern man with southern principles.” Pierce was elected president in1852 and stocked his cabinet with pro-slavery southerners, including Jefferson Davis as secretary of war.

In 1854, the U.S. Congress drew up the Ostend Manifesto, which essentially was going to force Spain to sell Cuba to the U.S. or face military invasion. If it had not been for the internal conflicts in the US that demanded balance between free and slave states, the US probably would have found a way to purchase or annex Cuba and make it a state.


The Artist's Creative Explanation

“I thought about showing more of his cosmonaut suit, but I wanted people to recognize him for who he is and not what he became. Generally, I really like to focus on the face without adding distractions such as background noises, which his suit would have been. I used an air brush and stencils to create this image. The stencils allowed me to get certain features sharp including the shape of his cheek, nose, and eyes, with no ‘overspray.’ And, I used grey tones to give the image a classic look.”


Artist Chris Meiselman

About "From These Shores"

From These Shores celebrates the accomplishments of 18 known and lesser-known Africans in the diaspora across time and geography. The 12 panels hang at the Juffureh Slavery Museum, The Gambia and online. Timbooktoo Bookstore in New Bakau, The Gambia and Mansa Musa Restaurant in Takoma Park, MD USA each display one of the panels.

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