Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant. Uhura on ‘Star Trek dies at age 89
Singer and actor Nichelle Nichols, best-known in her character of Star Trek‘s communications officer Lieutenant Uhura was found dead on late on Saturday night at Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 .
“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” her son Kyle Johnson wrote on the website Uhura.com. “Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”
Nichols was among the very first Black women to be featured on the major TV series and she was the Lieutenant. Nyota Uhura on the original TV series was revolutionary: An African American woman whose name was derived from Uhuru (which is the Swahili word meaning “freedom.”
“Here I was projecting in the 23rd century what should have been quite simple,” Nichols said to NPR in the year 2011. “We’re on a starship. I was head communications officer. Fourth in command on a starship. They didn’t see this as being, oh, it doesn’t happen til the 23rd century. Young people and adults saw it as now.”
It was in 1968 that Nichols was the talk of town when Uhura had a romantic hug in a romantic kiss with the Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) in an episode titled “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Their interracial kiss on lips was a landmark, and one of the very first such scenes on television.
Nichols is a native of Grace Dell Nichols in a Chicago suburb, where her father was mayor. She was raised dancing and singing, aspiring to become a musical theatre star. Her first break came in the show Kicks and Co. A thinly disguised comedy about Playboy magazine. She was the main character in The Chicago stage production by the stock companies of Carmen Jones and, during the year in New York performed in Porgy and Bess.
“For me, the most memorable and the apex of my career as an actor and singer and choreographer was the opportunity to be at the top of Broadway,” she told NPR in 2011. She also said that as her fame with Star Trekgrew, she began to receive other opportunities. “I determined that I would leave the show and head into New York and make my way onto Broadway,” she told NPR in 2011. Broadway scene.”
Nichols claimed she met with Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and said she would be quitting. “He was very upset about it. And he said, take the weekend and think about what I am trying to achieve here in this show. You’re an integral part and very important to it.”
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The following weekend, she attended an NAACP fundraising event located in Beverly Hills and was asked to meet a man who told her that she was her most fervent follower. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, ‘Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you.’ He said, ‘no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you … to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for.’ So, I said to him, ‘thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.'”
“His face got very, very serious,” she remembered. “And he said, ‘what are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered… And he stopped me and said: ‘You cannot do that.’ I was stunned. He said, ‘don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch.’ I was speechless.”
Nichols was back in the show in 1969, and the series lasted until. She also reprised her iconic part in six more feature films which included Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in which Uhura was elevated to the rank of commander. .
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Over the years, Nichols also helped diversify the real-world space program by helping find astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Guion Bluford, and other astronauts. She also had her own foundation for science, Women in Motion.
“Many actors become stars, but few stars can move a nation,” tweetedactress Lynda Carter who was Wonder Woman in TV during the 70s. “Nichelle Nichols showed us the extraordinary power of Black women and paved the way for a better future for all women in media. Thank you, Nichelle. We will miss you.”
George Takei, who costarred in Star Trek as helmsman Hikaru Sulu, tweeted: “I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise,” she wrote. “For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”
He also uploaded a photo of his long-time companion and his longtime friend, showing the Vulcan greeting and the phrases: “We lived long and prospered together.”