Nichelle Nichols did go where no woman had gone before
We would be remiss if we did not pay tribute to Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek,” who passed away recently at 89.
Nichols broke barriers for Black women in entertainment and boldly went where no woman had gone before.
She was on the show from 1966-69 and was idolized by the series rabid fans, called Trekkers and Trekkies, attending gatherings of these fans for years.
The Associated Press story about her death noted: “(Her role) also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited Black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.”
She played Uhura in six “Star Trek” motion pictures but many might not know she served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
“Star Trek” premiered on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966 and immediately stood out for its multicultural and multiracial cast. AP wrote: “That casting was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the far-off future — the 23rd century — human diversity would be fully accepted.”
The show had an impact on many in the real world.
“I think many people took it into their hearts … that what was being said on TV at that time was a reason to celebrate,” Nichols said in 1992.
“Star Trek” counted Martin Luther King Jr. as fan of the show who praised her role. Nichols said she met him at a civil rights gathering in 1967, telling him then she wasn’t returning 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 (Okla.) 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.
“That foresight Dr. King had was a lightning bolt in my life,” Nichols said.
Nichols was a bright light in many lives through the years. A beautiful tribute posted online July 31 by her son Kyle Johnson said it best:
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. 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. Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”