Breakthrough ‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who broke television barriers with her portrayal of Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, has died aged 89.

His son, Kyle Johnson, announced the news on Facebook. Nichols’ longtime manager, Zachery McGinnis, has confirmed the beloved Star Trek actress’ death.

Of her mother’s passing, Johnson wrote: “Last night my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Its light, however, like the ancient galaxies seen now for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired by. His was a life well lived and as such a role model for all of us,” before asking the public to grant his family privacy during this time.

Nichols rose to galactic levels of fame when she was cast and starred in the original Star Trek series as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the 1960s. Uhura was among the first significant roles for black women on American television .

Nichols considered leaving Star Trek after being offered a role on Broadway, but was convinced to stay on The Enterprise after a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nichols decided to stay, realizing she could serve as an inspiration to countless generations of Black. children and families.

Her role as Uhura was eventually written out to become a love interest of Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. In 1968, they shared a kiss on the show – marking the first time in American television history that an interracial kiss was aired.

Shatner weighed in later on Sunday afternoon, tweeting, “So sorry to hear of Nichelle’s passing. She was a beautiful woman and played an admirable character who did so much to redefine social issues here in the United States and around the world. I will definitely miss her. I send my love and condolences to his family.

After the original Star Trek series ended in 1969, Nichols played Uhura in an animated Star Trek series and in numerous feature films.

On Twitter, former co-star George Takei tweeted about the legend’s loss. “I will have more to say about the pioneering and incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the deck with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars among which you now rest, my dearest friend.

Nichols’ reach extended beyond television, particularly when she began working with NASA, helping recruit women of color to the agency. She did this through a collaboration with the government agency and her own company, Women in Motion.

The agency also paid tribute to Nichols, tweeting, “We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actress, trailblazer and role model, who symbolized for so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first female and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to aim for the stars.

During a visit to the White House in 2012 with then-President Barack Obama, Nichols tweeted: “Months ago, [President] Obama was quoted as saying he had a crush on me when he was younger. I asked about it and he proudly confirmed it! President Obama also confirmed to me that he was definitely a Trekker! How wonderful?!”

Born Grace Dell Nichols on December 28, 1932, in Robbins, Illinois, to working-class worker-turned-mayor and Chief Justice Lishia Parks Nichols, Nichols caught the gambling bug at a young age, getting her big stage break in 1961. musical, Kicks and Co.

Her younger brother, Thomas, was part of the Heaven’s Gate cult and died in the group’s mass suicide in 1997. The group believed they would transform into aliens by rejecting their human state and going to Heaven. Thomas often used his relationship with his famous sister to promote their message.

In 2015, Nichols suffered a stroke. Three years later, she was diagnosed with dementia. This diagnosis led to an ugly legal battle and conservatorship between her son and a friend of Nichols’, Angelique Fawcett, who at one time lived in Nichols’ guest house.

Nichols has received numerous honors, including an honorary degree from Los Angeles Mission College. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

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