Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt Uhura in original Star Trek, dies at 89 years of age

The Guardian – By Joanna Walters/Maya Yang/Edward Helmore – Sun 31 Jul 2022

Nichelle Nichols, who played communications officer Lt Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek series and helped to create a new era for television in the 1960s, has died in New Mexico at the age of 89.

Nichols’ son, Kyle Johnson, announced her death on Sunday via Facebook, saying: “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.” Nichols’s death, on Saturday night in Silver City, was later confirmed by her agent.

Johnson said his mother had succumbed to natural causes, seven years after suffered a stroke.

“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.”

Nichols will be remembered chiefly for her role in the sci-fi adventure series, but she began her career as a dancer and nightclub singer.

Co-star George Takei tweeted that his heart was heavy, “my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend” and he would have more to say soon on the “incomparable” trailblazer.

Star Trek brought Nichols enduring recognition and helped to break down some racial barriers in the television business, as they were rampant elsewhere.

She often recalled how civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr was a fan of the show and praised her role.

She met him at a civil rights gathering in 1967, at a time when she had decided not to return for the show’s second season.

“When I told him I was going to miss my co-stars and I was leaving the show, he became very serious and said ‘You cannot do that’,” she told The Tulsa World in a 2008 interview.

“‘You’ve changed the face of television forever, and therefore, you’ve changed the minds of people’,” she said the civil rights leader told her.

Nichols said: “That foresight Dr King had was a lightning bolt in my life.”

The Smithsonian tweeted a picture of Lt Uhura’s iconic red mini-dress and noted that Nichols made “history for African American women in TV and film. Nichols also volunteered to recruit women and people of color for Nasa.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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