Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols (89) passed away

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American actress Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89. Nichols was best known for her role on the Star Trek series, in which she played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. With her role, she was one of the first black women to star in a major American television series.

Photo: NASA, Nichelle Nichols

Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson announced on Instagram that the actress died of old age at the age of 89. The actress made her career as a musical star in the 1960s and broke through internationally when she landed the role of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in Star Trek in 1966. Nichols played the role in the original Star Trek series from 1966 to 1969, when the series was discontinued.

Nichols made history with her role in Star Trek by playing a leading role as a black woman in a major American television series. In her role, she sat for years alongside other protagonists such as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. A starring role in a major series like Star Trek was very unusual for a black woman in the 1960s, when racial segregation was still prevalent. Nichols knew with her role to inspire other black women to act.

When Nichols wanted to give up the role on Star Trek after the first season to return to the musical world, it was none other than Martin Luther King who convinced her to continue playing the part. King was a Trekkie and Nichols said in multiple interviews that he met her convinced to continue playing the role of Uhura.

The role of Nichols caused much controversy later in the series when she kissed fellow actor William Shatner on screen. Nyota Uhura and Captain Kirk’s kiss wasn’t the first kiss between a black woman and a white man on US television, but it was the first time it happened on a major series like Star Trek. That made a lot of sense in 1968.

After the series ended in 1969, Nichols continued to star in several films and series. She was featured in the Heroes series and returned several times in Star Trek spin-offs. She starred in several Star Trek movies that came out after the first series, and she also did work as a voice actor for animated series in the Star Trek universe.

In addition to her work as an actress, Nichols also worked with NASA. She shot videos for the space agency to encourage more people of color and women to become astronauts. According to NASA Nichols laid the groundwork for people of color who now work at NASA as astronauts.

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