‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke down barriers during a time of societal upheaval and the struggle for civil rights for black Americans. Actress, mother and utterly devoted to legions of “Star Trek” fans, Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died aged 89.

The announcement on his Facebook page by his son read:

Sunday July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Its light however, like the ancient galaxies seen now for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired by.

His life was well lived and as such a role model for all of us.

I and the rest of our family would appreciate your patience and indulgence as we mourn his loss until we can recover enough to talk more. Her services will be for members of her family and closest friends and we ask that her and our privacy be respected.

Long life and prosperity,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Illinois, in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She then turned to acting and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Our actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the Original Series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in this role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke down racial barriers, including his on-screen kiss, the first between a black person and a white person, with his costar William Shatner, who played captain James T. Kirk, but she, too, became a role model for young black women and men, inspiring them to seek their own place in science, technology, and other human endeavours.

In numerous interviews over the years, Nichols often recalled how Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the show.

At the end of the first series, Nichols became a NASA spokesperson, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts”. She later reprized her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of black Americans, especially in the fields of science and technology.

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an ad in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he says. The US Air Force pilot would apply for and later become the first African-American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in on his passing on Sunday afternoon in a statement released by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a pioneer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.

The daughter of a working-class Illinois family, she first honed her craft as an actress and singer in Chicago before traveling the country and the world with artists like Duke Ellington and bringing the lyrics of James Baldwin to life. .

At the height of the civil rights movement, she broke stereotypes to become the first black woman to play a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she carried on that legacy by continuing to work with NASA to enable generations of Americans from all walks of life to reach for the stars and beyond.

Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity and respect are the cornerstones of every society.“

Nichols’ son said services will be private for family members and his closest friends.

In 2008, the actress at a press conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the film “TRU LOVED”, in honor of the more than 900 students of the School of Social Justice at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Los Angeles who participated in GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols talks about LGBTQ rights:

Fellow castmate and longtime friend, Out actor George Takei shared his sadness upon learning of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African-American woman, as the show’s title character was an almost unprecedented decision in 1966. But for black women in across the country, he redefined notions of what was possible.

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s radical impact:

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