Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original “Star Trek,” has died.
Her son Kyle Johnson announced on her Facebook page,
“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.”
As Uhura, Nichols was one of the first Black women ever to play a main cast role on a television series, as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wanted the crew of the USS Enterprise to come from many diverse backgrounds. Uhura, whose surname came from the Swahili word for “freedom,” was the ship’s communications officer with expertise in linguistics.
Nichols stayed for all three seasons of “Trek,” with arguably her most famous scene coming in the 1968 episode Plato’s Stepchildren, where the Enterprise crew are held hostage by a telekinetic race called the Platonians and forced via mind control into awkward situations. In one such situation, Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, was forced to kiss Uhura. While not the first, it was the most prominent instance at the time of an interracial kiss on American television.
Nichols also starred alongside the rest of the Trek cast in six feature films, with Uhura being promoted to commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Nichelle Nichols was 89.