Nichelle Nichols, an actress and vocalist best known for playing Lieutenant Uhura, Star Trek’s communications officer, passed away on Saturday night in Silver City, New Mexico. Age-wise, she was 89.
I regret to inform you that, after many years, a brilliant light in the firmament no longer shines for us, her son Kyle Johnson wrote on the website Uhura.com. Her light, however, will endure for us and future generations to appreciate, learn from, and be inspired by, much like the old galaxies now being glimpsed for the first time.
As Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original TV series, Nichols made history as one of the first Black women to appear in a major television series. Her name is derived from the Swahili word for “freedom,” Uhuru.
In 2011, Nichols stated to NPR, “Here I was projecting in the 23rd century what should have been pretty simple.” “Our ship is a spaceship. I was the chief of communications. In fourth place on a starship. They didn’t believe that this would occur until the year 2300. Both children and adults thought it was already.
When Uhura and Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) exchanged a passionate kiss in 1968’s “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode, Nichols gained notoriety. One of the first such television moments, their interracial kiss on the lips was revolutionary.
William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols experienced one of the first interracial kisses in television history.
Grace Dell Nichols, a YouTubeNichols, was born in a Chicago suburb where her father served as the mayor. She spent her formative years performing musical theater, singing, and dancing. Kicks and Co., a 1961 musical that subtly parodied Playboy magazine, gave her her big break. She starred in the Chicago stock company’s production of Carmen Jones and appeared in Porgy and Bess in New York.
She told NPR in 2011 that becoming a Broadway star was the “peak and the apex of my life as a singer, actor, and dancer/choreographer,” and that as Star Trek’s fame expanded, she was starting to receive additional offers. I made the decision to depart for New York and break into the Broadway theater.
Nichols claimed that she informed Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry of her resignation. “It made him really upset. And he advised taking the weekend to reflect on the goals I have for this show. You play a crucial role and are essential to it.
She attended an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills that weekend and was requested to meet Martin Luther King, Jr., who claimed to be her biggest fan.
“He gave me praise for the way I’d developed the character. I thanked him and reportedly remarked, “Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you,” before leaving. “No, no, no,” he retorted. No, you’re misunderstanding. You are not required to march with us. Your marching. What we are fighting for is reflected in you. I then remarked, “Thank you so much,” to him. And my co-stars, who I’ll miss.
She remembered, “His face went very, very serious.” What are you talking about, he asked. And I said, “Well, Gene and I just just discussed my decision to leave the program after the first year due to an offer I’ve received to… And he halted me, telling me, “You cannot do that.” I was in awe. Don’t you realize what this man has accomplished, he questioned? We are finally being perceived how we ought to be around the globe. Do you realize that my wife Coretta and I will only allow our little children to watch this show at night? he asks. I was unable to speak.
In the series, which continued until 1969, Nichols made a comeback. In six more motion pictures, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Uhura was elevated to commander, she returned to her well-known role.
Nichols worked tirelessly to diversify the real-world space program by assisting in the selection of astronauts like Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Guion Bluford, and others. She also has a science foundation of her own, Women in Motion.
“Many performers become stars, but few stars can move a nation,” said Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter in the 1970s, an tweeted actress. “Nichelle Nichols opened the road for a better future for all women in media and demonstrated to us the incredible potential of Black women. I’m grateful, Nichelle. You are missed by us.
“I shall have more to say about the pioneering, irreplaceable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise,” wrote George Takei, who played helmsman Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek. My eyes sparkle like the stars you are now resting amid, my darling buddy, yet my heart is sorrowful today.
He also said, “We lived long and flourished together,” along with a picture of himself and his longtime pal flashing the Vulcan salute.