Nichelle Nichols dies
Nichelle Nichols, best known for her lead role as Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek series, has died at the age of 89.
Her son, Kyle Johnson, informed her fans in a post on Nichols’ Instagram account.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” Johnson writes.
“However, its light, like the ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired.”
Nichols was born on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois.
Prior to joining the cast of Star Trek, Nichols toured with jazz artist Duke Ellington as a dancer and singer, and later starred in the 1959 film Porgy and Bess, as well as The Lieutenant (1964).
Nichols joined the cast of Star Trek in 1966 as Lieutenant Nyota Oora, and made history as the first black woman to play a leading role on television.
She almost left Star Trek to work on Broadway, but in the end, a meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. convinced her to stay on the show.
Dr. King himself, a Star Trek fan, reminded Nichols of the enormous importance of her role, leading her to retract her resignation.
Nichols remained on Star Trek until the original series ended in 1969.
Nichols’ legacy extends far beyond Star Trek.
It has partnered with NASA to encourage the recruitment of astronauts from underrepresented backgrounds. Her work helped bring the first woman, Sally Ride, and the first black man, Colonel Joyon Bluford, into space.
The 2019 film Woman in Motion is dedicated to the impact Nichols’ advocacy had on NASA.
Last December, Nichols announced her retirement from space defense after her final appearance at LA Comic Con.
Nichols and his colleagues responded to the news of her death online. Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice, wrote on Twitter: “Acting is important.
Excellence in acting is more important…Rest well, Grandpa.”
George Takei, better known as Hikaru Solo on Star Trek, posted a tribute to Nichols on Twitter.
“I will have more to say about the incomparable pioneer Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as First Lieutenant Oura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at the age of 89,” says Takei.
“Today, my heart is heavy, and my eyes shine like the stars that now rest among you, my dearest friend.”