Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, died at 89: NPR

Nichelle Nichols made history for her role as Lieutenant Uhura’s communications officer Star Trek.

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Nichelle Nichols made history for her role as Lieutenant Uhura’s communications officer Star Trek.

CBS via Getty Images

Actress and singer Nichelle Nichols, better known by the name star trekLieutenant Ourra, communications officer, died Saturday night in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old.

“I regret to inform you that a great light in heaven no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” Written by her son, Kyle Johnson, on Uhura.com. “But its light, like the ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, to learn and to be inspired.”

Nichols was one of the first black women to appear in a major television series, and her role as Lieutenant Nyota Ura in the original television series was groundbreaking: an African-American woman whose name came from Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom.”

“Here I was picturing in the twenty-third century what must have been very simple,” Nichols told NPR in 2011. “We’re on a spaceship. I was head of communications. Fourth in command of a spacecraft. They didn’t see this as, oh, that doesn’t happen until the 23rd century. Young and old saw it the way it is now.”

In 1968, Nichols made headlines when Aura shared an intimate kiss with Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) in an episode called Plato’s Stepsons. The interracial kiss on the lips was revolutionary, and one of the first moments on television.

Nichols was born Grace Dale Nichols in a suburb of Chicago where her father was a mayor. She grew up singing and dancing and aspired to become a star in musical theatre. She got her first break in the musical in 1961 Kicks and Co. , veiled satire thin play boy magazine. She was the star of Carmen Jones Securities’ production in Chicago, and performed in New York Porgy and Bass.

“For me, the highlight and the epitome of my life as a singer, actress, and dancer/choreographer has been starring on Broadway,” she told NPR in 2011. star trek I started getting other offers. “I decided to leave, go to New York and make my way to Broadway.”

Nichols said she went to Gene Roddenberry, creator star trekAnd announced that she would resign. “He was so upset about it. And he said, ‘Take the weekend and think about what I’m trying to achieve here on this show. You are so integral and so important to him.'”

That weekend, she went to an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills and was asked to meet a man who said he was her number one fan: Martin Luther King Jr.

“He complimented the way I created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, ‘Dr. King, I wish I was there on a walk with you.'” He said, “No, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you…to advance. You’re going. You reflect what we’re fighting for.” So, I told him, “Thank you very much. I will miss my co-stars.”

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“His face became very, very dangerous,” she recalls. He said: What are you talking about? And I said, “Well, I just told Jen yesterday that I’m leaving the show after year one because I was offered it…and he stopped me and said, ‘You can’t do that.'” I was shocked. He said, ‘Don’t you understand what this man has achieved?’ For the first time, we see the world around us as it should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show my wife Coretta and I will allow our little kids to stay awake and watched. I was unable to speak.”

Nichols returned to the series, which ran until 1969. She also reprized her famous role in six subsequent feature films, including Star Trek II: Wrath of KhanAs Ura is promoted to the rank of captain.

For years, Nichols has also helped diversify the real-world space program, helping to recruit astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnick, Jon Bluford, and others. And it has its own scientific institution, Women in motion.

Many actors become stars, but few stars can move a nation. chirp Actress Linda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on TV in the 1970s. “Nichelle Nichols has shown us the extraordinary power of black women and paved the way for a better future for all women in the media. Thank you, Nichelle. We will miss you.”

“I’ll have more to say about the incomparable Major, Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lieutenant Oura of the USS Enterprise,” wrote George Takei, who played Helmsman Hikaru Solo on Star Trek. “Today, my heart is heavy, and my eyes shine like the stars that now lie between you, my dearest friend.”

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He also posted a picture of his old friend, both flashing a Vulcan salute, and these words: “We lived long and prospered together.”

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