Television

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Uhura, Dead at 89

Sad news out of Hollywood as it has been announced that legendary actress, Nichelle Nichols, has died.

She was 89.

Nichols was best known for her role as Uhura on the original Star Trek series, a role she held for the entire series.

The actress starred alongside William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy on that series.

She and Shatner shared the first kiss between a white person and a Black person on television.

Nichols considered leaving the series after its first season, prompting Martin Luther King Jr. to ask her to stay. 

He told her she was a role model for Black children.

“He told me that Star Trek was one of the only shows that his wife Coretta and he would allow their little children to stay up and watch,” Nichelle recalled.

“I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face and he said, ‘You can’t do that. Don’t you understand, for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen? You don’t have a Black role. You have an equal role.’”

“I went back to work on Monday morning and went to Gene’s office and told him what had happened over the weekend. And he said, ‘Welcome home. We have a lot of work to do.’ ”

Whoopi Goldberg, who played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, remembered telling her family upon first watching Star Trek: “I just saw a Black woman on television, and she ain’t no maid!”

Nichols did not return for the Star Trek reboot, with Zoe Saldana taking over the iconic role.

The character currently appears on Paramount+ drama Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, with Celia Rose Gooding taking over the role.

That show is set well before the original series, and has already been renewed for a second season.

Nichelle’s son, Kyle Johnson, shared news of his mother’s passing on Facebook.

“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,” he wrote Sunday.

“Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nichols died in Silver City, New Mexico. She had been living with her son and was recently hospitalized.

May Nichelle Nichols rest in peace.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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