Nichelle Nichols, the actor who played Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek series, has died, according to her official website. Her son wrote, “Dear Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World: I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years. 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. I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected. Live Long and Prosper, Kyle Johnson.”
Nichols’ role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, which aired from 1966-1969, was groundbreaking. Uhura was one of a handful of characters on the show that portrayed minority cast members in non-stereotypical roles. As The Washington Post wrote, actress Whoopi Goldberg (who later was a member of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast in the ’80s), said that when she saw Star Trek as an adolescent, she screamed to her family, “Come quick, come quick. There’s a Black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!”
In the “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode (season 3 episode 10), which was broadcast on November 22, 1968, a kiss between Nichols’ Uhura and and William Shatner’s Capt. James T. Kirk was one of the first interracial kisses on television. It helped to change what viewers thought of as acceptable on television and was an early statement about the acceptance of interracial love and marriages.
Here are some reactions to her passing: