I Met Grace - A Black Diamond: How Nichelle Nichols Changed the World

Follow the North Star to Freedom - An Underground Railroad Motto

This entertainer nearly lost the chance to touch the lives of millions globally, because she came very close the being shot to death before she was born - by Al Capone.

What a loss that would have been to us! Studies in the 1970s showed that the more disparate the ethnicities or races of the parents, the more intelligent their offspring. In the case of the quality of grace itself reaching toward the Star of Freedom, this is true. The entertainer I admire that is related to all this is an entertainment star, a voice of freedom and change, and overall, a black diamond. Intelligent, resorceful, puposeful, graceful, beautiful, compassionate and filled with passion, this human star lights the hopes of young men and women and has done so for decades.

After attending seminars presenting information about the relationship of intelligence and education with racial and ethinic backgrounds, I have been astounded at the high levels of IQ and gifts from among the Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner, 1980s) that interracial individuals can demonstrate compared to single-nationality lineages. After the first decade of the 21st century, this cannot be hidden anly longer. In addition, a mix of races often creates a progeny of a profoundly striking and exotic appearance.

This entertainer, Grace, was rooted in a family line that was steeped in American slavery on both sides of the aution block -- a real Romeo and Juliet story, without the death, and one that I will always remember. The line followed the North Star all the way to NASA and the rest of the stars of the universe. This entertainer has likely not noticed the parallel, but to me, will always be a black diamond traveling through space and time.

Grace Nichols

Grace (Nichelle) Nichols, Uhuru on Star Trek.
Grace (Nichelle) Nichols, Uhuru on Star Trek. | Source

Follow the North Star - click to enlarge.

The North Star changes! Thuban in constellation Draco was our north star in 2000 BC. POLARIS is temporarily our North Star. In 14,000 years, Vega will become the North Star and replaced by Polaris again 14,000 years later. Thsi is "Precession", cause
The North Star changes! Thuban in constellation Draco was our north star in 2000 BC. POLARIS is temporarily our North Star. In 14,000 years, Vega will become the North Star and replaced by Polaris again 14,000 years later. This is "Precession", cause
Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, was called the Drinking Gourd by African American slaves.
Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, was called the Drinking Gourd by African American slaves.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

"Follow the drinking gourd", meant to follow the North Star in the Little Dipper in the night sky in order to find the northern USA and Canada, where slaves could be free.

Slaves and secret Underground Railroad Conductors sang the following song around plantations as a code for slaves to follow the North Star to freedom.

One gentleman took the name Peg Leg Joe and took short-term jobs around the plantations of the south, long enough to teach the slaves on each plantation this song:

Grace's grandmother likely knew this song by heart, although she would never need to follow those directions. Her life would hold unheard of experiences that led to success and happiness up North.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

When the Sun comes back

And the first quail calls

Follow the Drinking Gourd,

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom

If you follow the Drinking Gourd

.

The riverbank makes a very good road.

The dead trees will show you the way.

Left foot, peg foot, travelling on,

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

.

The river ends between two hills

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

There’s another river on the other side

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

.

When the great big river meets the little river

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

For the old man is a-waiting for to carry to freedom

If you follow the Drinking Gourd.

Just Like Romeo and Juliet - The Reflections - Early 1960s TV

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Al Capone - Scar Face (1899 - 1947).Members of the Teddy Masuku Dancers in the stage production of "Follow the North Star" in Canada. Courtesy,  Sgt Serge Gouin, office of the Governor General of Canada. The British Imperial Act of 1833 aboliished slavery in the British Empire, includiHer Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean; Governor General of Canada.
Al Capone - Scar Face (1899 - 1947).
Al Capone - Scar Face (1899 - 1947).
Members of the Teddy Masuku Dancers in the stage production of "Follow the North Star" in Canada. Courtesy,  Sgt Serge Gouin, office of the Governor General of Canada. The British Imperial Act of 1833 aboliished slavery in the British Empire, includi
Members of the Teddy Masuku Dancers in the stage production of "Follow the North Star" in Canada. Courtesy, Sgt Serge Gouin, office of the Governor General of Canada. The British Imperial Act of 1833 aboliished slavery in the British Empire, includi
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean; Governor General of Canada.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean; Governor General of Canada.

"Just Like Romeo and Juliet"

Grace's grandparents were Samuel Gillespie (a red-haired green-eyed Welshman) and Lydia Annie (A Spanish-African recent ex-slave). Sam was the son of a slave owner of 400 in Mississippi; he forbade Sam from marrying Lydia. Sam told his father that no one would tell him whom to love and marry -- He and Lydia eloped to the North and changed their last name. They bought a back and white dog they named patches as a symbolic gesture later on.

When Sam's father was dying and sent word for him to leave his "black wife and kids" and come back and be reinstated in his will, Sam refused. All his descendants have refused to sue the estate for the money to this day.

Grace was born in the northern USA, near Chicago, to parents Lishia (African and Cherokee) and Samuel (Spanish, Welsh, and African), who had become a factory worker as well as the mayor and chief magistrate of the suburb. As the family became more prosperous, they migrated to a luxurious Chicago apartment. Unfortunately, white neighbors moved in haste.

This was Depression and Prohibition Era Chicago and Al Capone tormented business people and elected officials in the White City and surrounding towns. Samuel was not excused from this torment. Capone had been paying Sam's Chief of Police a weekly bribe to protect illegal alcohol production in town, but the operation had been destroyed by others on the force.

Capone went to Sam's home to kill him as Grace's mom sat, pregnant and hiding a six-shooter behind a cushion on the couch.

When Sam explained he'd not received any of the bribe (which the Chief was to pass on), Capone and his henchmen left, but not before Lishia brought the gun slowly out to show that she'd been armed. When Capone asked why she hadn't used the gun, she replied that the mafia had been guests in her home who had committed no wrong.

This type of grace was passed onto that day's unborn child, Grace. She could have been murdered before she was born.

Grace's Recruits

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sally Ride - 2nd and 3rd shuttle missions, the 7th (Challenger) and investigated the later accident.Colonel Guion Bluford Jr.Judith Resnick. Challenger. "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave." -- President Ronald Reagan  Dr. Ronald McNair. Challenger.Ellison Onizuka. Challenger.
Sally Ride - 2nd and 3rd shuttle missions, the 7th (Challenger) and investigated the later accident.
Sally Ride - 2nd and 3rd shuttle missions, the 7th (Challenger) and investigated the later accident.
Colonel Guion Bluford Jr.
Colonel Guion Bluford Jr.
Judith Resnick. Challenger. "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave." -- President Ronald Reagan
Judith Resnick. Challenger. "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave." -- President Ronald Reagan
Dr. Ronald McNair. Challenger.
Dr. Ronald McNair. Challenger.
Ellison Onizuka. Challenger.
Ellison Onizuka. Challenger.

Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally - Played to wake up Sally Ride & friends in space.

UHURU - Freedom in Kenya

Uhuru
Uhuru

Original printing in 1962. Kenya is free and the blacks and whites celebrate and adapt to the changes freedoms bring.

 

Not Just a TV Personality

I met Grace Nichols several years ago, among a group of admirers that had come to hear her lecture about a successful singing and dance career, along with her television and stage performances.

Having begun the art of ballet lessons at the age of seven, Grace was a dance prodigy and earned the French sounding nickname Nichelle for her perfect pirouettes.

She would go on to earn a living through dancing, singing with the Lionel Hampton orchestra and Duke Ellington, performing at the Playboy Clubs, modeling (even nude), becoming a star in France, and returning to the US to read for a part in Star Trek®. She even had roles in Porgy and Bess (1959 and later) and the Ron Eli Tarzan series.

That was only the beginning. She influenced thousands of young people to enter the sciences as a profession, and actively recruited NASA astronauts – This included Sally Ride and Guion Bluford, the first woman and the first black; along with Shuttle Challenger’s tragically lost Judith Resnick and Ronald McNair.

She never lost the quality of grace or the original Grace that Al Capone nearly murdered. For example, as she was deciding to quit Star Trek in its first season because her role was slashed by the network, Martin Luther King Jr. asked her not to do so, because she could influence young black people in America to reach for their dreams and a place in the world as real people in the future, and that her role still was full of “dignity and beauty and grace and intelligence “(my thoughts exactly). She graciously agreed to continue. Nyota was added as Uhuru’s first name, for the full translation of a fitting name: Star Freedom.

Her Star Trek® character was named Uhuru, because she carried the book Black Uhuru (Freedom, 1962; see Amazon blurb below) with her to auditions, the book describing new freedoms in Kenya, Africa for the newly independent nation. In 1970, Uhuru became NASA's first Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS), registered as SAS-1. It was launched in Kenya on December 12 of that year on the 7th Anniversary of Kenya's Independence.

The entertainer has flown an 8-hour mission on an important Space Observatory and has had an asteroid named in her honor: 68410 Nichols.

Aside from all of this, Grace writes science fiction of her own and serves on the boards of the National Space Society and The Kwanzaa Foundation.

Grace Nichols has been beautiful for 7 decades without wavering once from that course. Owing to her quality of grace under fire that honors her birth name, her intelligence, poise, natural good looks, and graciousness, this entertainer is also a real person with substance and beauty within and without. This puts her at the top of my list of the 10 Most Beautiful Women in the World.

It is one thing to be an attractive "bag of mostly water" as Star Trek® aliens call us, at age 20, irresponsible, shallow, promiscuous, drunken, and drug riddled like some young stars of today...But to be hardworking and beautiful, to overcome racism and sexism, to use failures as launching points to victory, to live with integrity and without excuse, and still exude loveliness and grace -- That is a star on earth and a jewel in the Crown of God.

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Comments 7 comments

Netters profile image

Netters 7 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

Awesome hub! Very interesting.


Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 7 years ago from Australia

I've read Nichelle Nichol's autobiography which she wrote a few years back now. I guessed just from the summary who you were talking about. From all accounts she is not just beautiful on the outside, but she has an inner grace which is just amazing. A very interesting hub. Thankyou!


laringo profile image

laringo 7 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

Patty I really enjoyed reading this Hub and I also learned things about Nichelle Nichols I never knew. I always admired her poise and grace even playing her character on Star Trek. She lives by those qualities as well in real life. Great Hub!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Netters! - thanks for reading another of my Hubs. Always good to see you.

Tahnks, Hovalis - you're the only other person I know that has read her book. Thanks for commenting and enjoying the same entertainer that lifts me up. :)

Laringo - There is a lot that is unknown about Grace/Nichelle and I hoep she does more films soon. She is still on the stage, though. Thanks for reading!


ngureco profile image

ngureco 6 years ago

I have enjoyed reading this hub. I believe I will love reading that original 1962 printing of the book “Uhuru”


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

That book is important socially and historically and I hope you read it and let us know your thoughts, ngureco. Thanks for responding!


royalblkrose profile image

royalblkrose 6 years ago from florida

nice! I met her too, talked with her for a whole two seconds...as security at a convention in San Francisco years ago..."Mr. Koenig went down the hall, Ms. Nichohls"... knew who you were talking about when I read she was almost shot by Al Capone... got her biography as a birthday present...it's a great read!

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