Nichelle Nichols, who broke barriers for black women in Hollywood when she played lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek TV show, has died at 89.
- Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson said she died on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico
- Her role in the 1966—1969 series as Lieutenant Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor with the series’ fans
- Nichols also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps
Her son Kyle Johnson said Nichols died on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” Mr Johnson wrote on his mother’s official Facebook page.
“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.
“Her’s was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”
Her role in the 1966—1969 series as Lieutenant Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor with the series’ fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies.
It also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial on-screen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
Fellow cast member George Takei described Nichols as “trailblazing and incomparable”
“For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend,” he posted to Twitter.
Takei played Sulu in the original Star Trek alongside Nichols.
But her impact was felt beyond her immediate co-stars, and many others in the Star Trek world also tweeted their condolences.
Celia Rose Gooding, who currently plays Uhura in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, wrote on Twitter that Nichols “made room for so many of us. She was the reminder that not only can we reach the stars, but our influence is essential to their survival. Forget shaking the table, she built it.”
Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spin-offs starting in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and frequented Star Trek fan conventions.
She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
More recently, she had a recurring role on television’s Heroes, playing the great-aunt of a young boy with mystical powers.
Star Trek premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966.
Its multicultural, multiracial cast was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the far-off future — the 23rd century — human diversity would be fully accepted.
“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 when a Star Trek exhibit was on view at the Smithsonian Institution.