Washington: Nichelle Nichols, a groundbreaking Black actress who performed communications officer Nyota Uhura with cool authority on the favored Sixties collection “Star Trek,” has died at 89.
Her son, Kyle Johnson, introduced the demise on the official uhura.com web site, saying, “Final night time, my mom, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to pure causes and handed away. Her mild, nonetheless, like the traditional galaxies now being seen for the primary time, will stay.”
A household spokesman mentioned Nichols died in Silver Metropolis, New Mexico, the place she had been residing together with her son.
Tributes poured in rapidly, together with from a protracted listing of devoted “Trekkies.”
William Shatner, who performed the USS Enterprise’s Captain James T. Kirk, despatched his condolences to Nichols’ household.
“She was an attractive lady & performed an admirable character that did a lot for redefining social points each right here within the US & all through the world. I’ll definitely miss her.”
George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu shared the bridge with Lieutenant Uhura, referred to as her “trailblazing and incomparable.”
And US President Joe Biden mentioned Nichols “redefined what is feasible for Black Individuals and ladies.”
“Our nation is without end indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who present us a future the place unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of each society,” he mentioned in an announcement.
Nichols made historical past with one of many first interracial kisses on US tv — a 1968 embrace shared with Shatner (a kiss deemed worthy of a separate entry in Wikipedia).
Martin Luther King Jr. himself as soon as praised Nichols, who broke floor together with her highly effective efficiency at a time when Black actors extra typically have been solid as servants or criminals.
– ‘An equal function’ –
Nichols, who had skilled in ballet and musical theater, at one level advised “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry that she wished to stop the present to return to the theater.
However when she talked about that to King, in an opportunity assembly recounted by the Hollywood Reporter: “All of the smile got here off his face and he mentioned, ‘You possibly can’t do this. Don’t you perceive, for the primary time, we’re seen as we needs to be seen? You don’t have a Black function. You have got an equal function.’”
Nichols labored as a recruiter for NASA — which reached out to her after she had criticized its lack of variety — and efficiently inspired a number of gifted African-Individuals and ladies of all races to think about careers with the area company.
NASA paid tribute to her legacy in a tweet Sunday night, calling her a “trailblazer and function mannequin” who “symbolized to so many what was doable.”
The Nationwide Air and House Museum additionally praised her work past the display screen.
“She was an inspiration to many, not only for her groundbreaking work on Star Trek but additionally by her work with NASA to recruit ladies and other people of colour to use to develop into astronauts,” the museum tweeted.
Whereas finest often called Uhura, Nichols had a diversified profession, dancing with Sammy Davis Jr. in “Porgy and Bess,” showing on the NBC collection “Heroes” and recording an album.
She additionally performed Uhura — a reputation taken from the Swahili for “freedom” — within the first six “Star Trek” motion pictures.
The Smithsonian, the US nationwide museum community, shared an image on Twitter of the crimson area jacket Nichols wore as Uhura on display screen, adorned with the enduring “Star Trek” pin, which is now on show on the Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition in Washington.