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(March 1997) Her younger brother Thomas commited suicide with the cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego.
Fed up with the racist harrasment, culminating with her learning that the studio was withholding her fan mail, she submitted her resignation. She withdrew it when Martin Luther King personally convinced her that her role was too important as a breakthrough to leave.
Her role as Uhura on Star Trek was the first time that an African American actress was portrayed in a non-stereotypical role. Previously, African American female actresses were depicted as maids or housekeepers, and Nichols' role broke the stereotype barrier among African American actresses. Like Sidney Poitier, whom his characters were one-dimensional (e.g. Det. Virgil Tibbs), Nichols portrayed a character that was non-stereotypical.
Although ignored in the "famous actors/actresses" in African American cinema, including "famous celebrities" during Black History Month, Nichols was one of the first actresses that portrayed a character on a TV show and science fiction series that was treated fairly like other races, and to all of Star Trek fans, the TV series and films that followed set the standard for multiculturalism (where people of different races, ethnicities, and gender are integrated and a sense of equality coexist).
Former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison was inspired by Nichols when she decided to become the first African American female astronaut. Jemison was a fan of the original "Star Trek" (1966).
During the late 1970s until ?1987, Nichelle Nichols was employed by NASA and was in charge of astronaut recruits and hopefuls. Most of the recruits that she launched were minority candidates of different races and/or ethnicities, as well as gender, like Guion Bluford (the first African American male astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female astronaut), Judith Resnick (one of the original female astronauts recruited by NASA, who perished during the launch of the Challenger on January 28, 1986), and Ronald McNair (another victim of the Challenger disaster). She lived in Houston, Texas during her years as a Johnson Space Center employee.