Nichelle Nichols has died. Her groundbreaking role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on the first “Star Trek” TV show broke down racial barriers. She turned 89.
“My mother, Nichelle Nichols, died last night of natural causes,” her son Kyle Johnson wrote on her Facebook page on Sunday.
“Her light, on the other hand, will stay for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by, just like the light from ancient galaxies that we are just now seeing for the first time,” he said. “She had a good life, and we can all learn from it.
“I and the rest of our family would appreciate it if you could be patient with us while we mourn her death until we are ready to talk more. Her funeral will be for her family and her closest friends, and we ask that her privacy and ours be respected.
Johnson said that his mom died in Silver City, New Mexico.
On Sunday, William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk, was sad about the death of his co-star.
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Shatner said on Twitter, “She was a beautiful woman and played a great character who did so much to change the way people think about social issues here in the US and around the world.”
George Takei, who played Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the show, tweeted that he would “have more to say about the groundbreaking, unmatched Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise.”
Takei wrote, “For today, my heart is heavy and my eyes are shining like the stars where you now rest, my dearest friend.”
Adam Nimoy, whose late father Leonard played Spock in the series, tweeted, “The importance of Nichelle’s legacy cannot be overstated.
“Many people cared about her and will miss her.”
President Biden said that Nichols was a “trailblazer on stage and screen” who changed what Black Americans and women could do.
Nasa said about Nichols in a tweet that he “represented to so many what was possible.
The US space agency said, “She worked with us to find some of the first women and people of colour to become astronauts. She also inspired generations to reach for the stars.”
In the 1970s, the space agency hired Nichols to help with recruiting. She is credited with helping Sally Ride become the first US woman astronaut and Mae Jemison become the first black woman astronaut.
Nichols’s role in “Star Trek” broke stereotypes for black actresses at a time when black women were usually cast as servants instead of leaders.
In 1967, when she told the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that she wasn’t going to come back for the show’s second season, he told her to stay.
“When I told him I was leaving the show and would miss my co-stars, he got very serious and said, ‘You can’t do that,'” she told the Tulsa World in an interview in 2008.
“‘You’ve changed television forever, and because of that, you’ve changed people’s minds,'” the civil-rights leader told her.
She stayed with the show from 1966 until the end of it in 1969.
At the time, it was unheard of for two people of different races to kiss on TV, but she and William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk, did just that. On the show, the two characters were always just friends, but in one episode, aliens took over their minds and made them kiss.
Some people working on the movie were worried about how Southern TV stations would react, so they wanted to do another take where the two kissed off-screen. But Nichols said in her book “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories” that she and Shatner would then mess up their lines on purpose so that the original scene would have to be shown.
She said in a 2010 interview that the episode got the most fan mail for a single Star Trek episode that Paramount had ever seen.
In 2012, Nichols met with former President Barack Obama. They posed for a picture in the Oval Office while making the Vulcan hand signal.
She was born Grace Dell Nichols, but as a teenager, she changed her first name to Nichelle so that her initials would sound like those of stars like Marilyn Monroe, who Nichols loved.
She started out as a singer and dancer in Chicago, then moved to New York, where she worked with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands for a while.
Her first role was in the 1959 movie “Porgy and Bess.” Before she got the “Star Trek” job, she had a few smaller roles in movies and on TV.
She was in the first of six movies based on the series, which came out in 1979. She was in all of them with other original cast members.
Recently, she was in an episode of the TV show “Heroes.”
In the past few years, Nichols has had health problems.
In 2018, it was said that she had been diagnosed with dementia. She had a stroke in the year 2015.
Before her dementia, Nichols went to “Star Trek” conventions and events.
She was eventually put under the care of a court-appointed guardian, who was her son. Her son said that her mental decline made it impossible for her to care for herself or go out in public.
Stay tuned for more updates, Nog Magazine.