Nichelle Nichols returns to the stars, passing at 89
Actress Nichelle Nichols is seen at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a 2010 event with LEGO. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
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A pioneering actress, Nichelle Nichols played Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura for over thirty years. She passed away over the weekend at age 89.

As one of the most adored and respected members of the “Star Trek” family, Nichols garnered respect and admiration from those closest to her as well as her many fans watching at home.

Nichelle Nichols never dreamed small.

Born in Robbins, Illinois on December 28, 1932 as Grace Dell Nichols, she kicked off her career in show business as a singer and dancer with dreams of becoming the first African American ballerina.

At the age of 14 she scored her first professional job performing at Chicago’s Sherman Hotel before later joining Duke Ellington’s and Lionel Hampton’s international roadshows before moving to Hollywood in the late ’50s to become an actress.

It’s been widely noted that Nichols almost walked off the “Star Trek” series out of frustration with her shrinking screen time, and it was actually Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who helped talk her out of it, saying, “You cannot, you cannot,” she remembered him telling her(opens in new tab). “For the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful people, who can sing, dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers. If you leave, that door can be closed because your role is not a black role, and it is not a female role, he can fill it with anybody, even an alien.”

Dr. King called it “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history,” according to CNN.

Widespread condolences have crossed all generations and include heartfelt thoughts from William Shatner, Adam Nimoy, George Takei, LeVar Burton, Kate Mulgrew, J.J. Abrams, Wilson Cruz, Jeri Ryan, Alex Kurtzman, and dozens more.

Nichols is remembered by those who carry her legacy forward.

Actress Zoe Saldaña recently stated on an Instagram post, “Nichelle made me feel safe, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world.” She continued, “My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing body of work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality amongst all people. She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered, but helped so many others prosper too.”

“I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Nichelle,” William Shatner tweeted(opens in new tab). “She was a beautiful woman and played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US and throughout the world. I will certainly miss her. Sending my love and condolences to her family.”

Her affiliation with NASA began in the 1970s as she partnered with them in a new role via her company, Women in Motion to assist with the recruitment of more women and people of color into their program.

“We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, ‘Star Trek’ actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible,” NASA tweeted.

“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” her son Kyle Johnson posted. “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.”(opens in new tab)

Nichols had been dealing with health issues over the past few years, having suffered a mild stroke in 2015 and had been struggling with dementia since 2018.

Information in this article was obtained via Space. RIP Nichelle Nichols.

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