On July 31th the public received the devastating news that as of late July 30th, actress and singer Nichelle Nichols, most known from her legendary role as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek series had passed away. On Nichols’ official sight her son Kyle Johnson wrote, “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 for future generations to enjoy, learn from and draw inspiration.”
Nichols played a very memorable role in the Star Trek original series as Lt. Nyota Uhura, a wonderful Black communications officer. This series began in 1966, a time where there was little to no representation in the media and when segregation had just been lifted. Of course, there had been a few Black women before Nichols, but they all played the stereotypical domestic submissive wife and worker roles. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this was “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history.”
Did you know that she was notorious for participating in one of the first interracial kisses on American television? The kiss with co-star James T. Kirk, changed television forever, in a good way of course, and with doing this she changed how people viewed others as a whole in society. After three seasons of acting alongside space related business Nichols dedicated her life to NASA in making the agency more diverse so that Sally Ride, Judith Resnik and Guion Bluford would be able to make history in upcoming years according to CNN. The National Air and Space Museum had something to say about her passing on Twitter.
We are sad to learn of the passing of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on #StarTrek. She was an inspiration to many, not just for her groundbreaking work on Star Trek but also through her work with NASA to recruit women and people of color to apply to become astronauts. pic.twitter.com/5ItRirFl8S
— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) July 31, 2022
Some facts about Nichelle Nichols:
*Nichols is a native of Robbins, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She is also a graduate of Englewood High School.
*She was blessed with a four octave vocal range and performed in many local clubs by the time she was only 14.
*Performer Duke Ellington took her on tour and she later worked extensively in Chicago clubs and in theater.
*The name Uhura wasn’t originally in the script. Nichols is said to have come up with it herself. According to her own recollection she had read a book entitled “Uhuru” which means “freedom” in Swahili. She then suggested the name and was denied because it sounded too harsh until she reworded it. “Well, why don’t you do an alteration of it, soften the end with an ‘A’ and it’ll be Uhura.” That is how her stardom began.
By Jay Bryant