Nichelle Nichols, trailblazing ‘Star Trek’ actress, dies at 89

“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. 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,” Johnson stated in a press release shared to Nichols’ official web site on Sunday. “Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”

Nichols died from pure causes, he stated.

Nichols portrayed communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura within the “Star Trek” TV collection and plenty of of its movie offshoots.

When “Star Trek” started in 1966, Nichols was a tv rarity: a Black girl in a notable function on a prime-time tv collection. There had been African-American girls on TV earlier than, however they typically performed home staff and had small roles; Nichols’ Uhura was an integral a part of the multicultural “Star Trek” crew.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as it “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history.”

Nichols is broadly identified for taking part in one of many first interracial kisses on US tv when her character kissed James T. Kirk, portrayed by White Canadian actor William Shatner. In an interview with CNN in 2014, Nichols stated the kiss scene “changed television forever, and it also changed the way people looked at one another.”

After “Trek’s” three-season run, Nichols devoted herself to the house program. She helped NASA in making the company extra numerous, serving to to recruit astronauts Sally Trip, Judith Resnik and Guion Bluford, amongst others.

George Takei, who portrayed the USS Enterprise’s helmsman Hikaru Sulu, posted a touching tribute to his co-star.

“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, and who passed today at age 89,” wrote Takei on Twitter. “For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”

“We lived long and prospered together,” he added with a photograph of the pair making the long-lasting Vulcan salute.

The Nationwide Air and Area Museum referred to as Nichols “an inspiration to many, not just for her groundbreaking work on Star Trek but also through her work with NASA to recruit women and people of color to apply to become astronauts” on Twitter.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia, additionally posted a tribute to the actress. “Godspeed to Nichelle Nichols, champion, warrior and tremendous actor,” wrote Abrams on Twitter alongside a photo of herself with Nichols. “Her kindness and bravery lit the path for many. May she forever dwell among the stars.”

Nichols was born Grace Dell Nichols close to Chicago in 1932. (Sad with Grace, she took the title Nichelle when she was a teen.) Her grandfather was a White Southerner who married a Black girl, inflicting a rift in his household.

Blessed with a four-octave vocal vary, Nichols was performing in native golf equipment by the point she was 14. Among the many performers she met was Duke Ellington, who later took her on tour. She additionally labored extensively in Chicago golf equipment and in theater.

She moved to Los Angeles within the early ’60s and landed a task in a Gene Roddenberry collection, “The Lieutenant.” A lot of “Star Trek” veterans, together with Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett, additionally labored on the present.

When Roddenberry was creating “Trek,” he remembered Nichols. She was in Europe when she received the decision.

“(My agent said), ‘They’re doing ‘Star Trek,’ and I didn’t know what a ‘Star Trek’ was,” she stated in an interview with the Tv Academy.

Uhura wasn’t within the authentic script, and Nichols was answerable for the title. She was studying a guide referred to as “Uhuru” — “freedom” in Swahili — and prompt her character take the title. Roddenberry thought it was too harsh.

“I said, ‘Well, why don’t you do an alteration of it, soften the end with an ‘A,’ and it’ll be Uhura?’ ” she recalled. “He said, ‘That’s it, that’s your name! You named it; it’s yours.’ ”

Nichols is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson.