Obituary: Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek

Nichelle Nichols, best known as the communications officer, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura of the spaceship EnterpriseDied July 30. She is 89 years old. Her breakthrough performances in Star Trekcorrespondence with the Civil Rights movement in the United States, helped set the first standard for diversity and inclusion in mainstream screen entertainment.

As Uhura, Nichols is the core presence in Star TrekThe original NBC station ran from 1966 to 1969. At that time, Black actresses were primarily given supporting or supporting roles in television and theatre. But Nichols, exuding 1960s-style professionalism and sex appeal from her chair on Enterprise Bridge, opened a channel to Hollywood for stars like Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier.

Grace Dell Nichols was born on December 28, 1932 in the Chicago suburb of Robbins, Illinois, she modeled and starred in a number of stage plays in her 20s and 30s, including that of James Baldwin Blues for Mister Charliebefore she broke through Star Trek.

Although she succeeds in Star TrekThe first season, Nichols felt invited to Broadway, and submitted his resignation to show creator Gene Roddenberry after receiving several offers for lead roles on stage. The following weekend, she was a celebrity guest at a NAACP party, where she met Father Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“As a matter of fact, [Star Trek] was the only show that my wife Coretta and I would allow our young children to stay awake and watch, because it was well past their bedtime,” said King, according to Nichols’ recollection for the Media Academy Foundation. Figure.

“And I had the courage to say, ‘I’m really going to miss my co-stars,’ and he said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘I’m leaving Star Trek“and he said, ‘You can’t. ” […] He said, ‘For the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen, every day.’ “

Nichols withdrew her resignation and continued with the series, culminating in a role in season 3, episode 10, “Plato’s Stepchildren”, where she shared a kiss with William Shatner, the first interracial romance featured on American television. The scene came a year after The Supreme Court’s decision nullifies the laws of the Southern states against interracial marriage.

Although the series’ first publication was canceled in 1969, Nichols remains a Star Trek in the coming decades. She, along with Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei and Walter Koenig, is one of seven officers commanding the Enterprise from its original three-year mission in the 1960s through six feature film appearances since five years. 1979 to 1991.

On Earth, Nichols was an ambassador for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration starting in 1977, specifically advocating the training and assignment of women and minority candidates for roles on spacecraft. pillar. In 2012, NASA recognized Nichols for inspiring the careers of Sally Ride (the first American woman in space) and astronauts Ronald McNair, Frederick Gregory, and Judith Resnik.

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