Nichelle Nichols, a groundbreaking Black actress who played communications officer Nyota Uhura with cool authority on the popular 1960s series “Star Trek,” has died at 89.
Her son, Kyle Johnson, announced the death on the official uhura.com website, saying, “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.” A family spokesman said Nichols died in Silver City, New Mexico, where she had been living with her son.
Tributes poured in quickly, including from a long list of devoted “Trekkies.”
William Shatner, who played the USS Enterprise’s Captain James T. Kirk, sent his condolences to Nichols’ family.
“She was a beautiful woman & played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world. I will certainly miss her.”
George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu shared the bridge with Lieutenant Uhura, called her “trailblazing and incomparable.”
And US President Joe Biden said Nichols “redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.”
“Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who shows us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society,” he said in a statement.
Nichols made history with one of the first interracial kisses on US television — a 1968 embrace shared with Shatner (a kiss deemed worthy of a separate entry in Wikipedia).
Martin Luther King Jr. himself once praised Nichols, who broke ground with her powerful performance at a time when Black actors more often were cast as servants or criminals.