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nichelle nichols star trek, nichelle nichols death, nichelle nichols mlk

A true trailblazer

For many, Nichelle Nichols was a hero.

As an actor, Nichols originated the iconic role of Starfleet communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on “Star Trek,” becoming an inspiring image of what’s possible for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

As an activist, she went on to work with NASA—helping to recruit minorities for the space program. In both entertainment media and real life, Nichols helped the world create a more inclusive vision of the future.

After building such a positive legacy it’s no wonder that, when the news of Nichols passing on July 30 at the age of 89 was shared, she received a flood of loving tributes online.

This included words from fellow “Trek” legends like George Takei, J.J. Abrams and William Shatner.


Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu alongside Nichols’ Uhura, wrote on Twitter, "I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend."

“A remarkable woman in a remarkable role. Nichelle, you will be deeply missed. Sending much love and respect," wrote Abrams.

Abrams would later cast Zoe Saldana and John Cho in the roles of Uhura and Sulu for his subsequent “Star Trek” films. Cho credited Nichols for being “ a huge part of why Star Trek mattered so much to me.”

The original Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, also honored his former co-star, writing, "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."

Of course, it wasn’t just “Star Trek” alumni who had wonderful things to say. Former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams (technically also an actor on the show after her cameo on “Star Trek: Discovery”) shared what she described as one of her “most treasured photos”—an image of Abrams next to Nichols, smiling and holding up the well-known Vulcan hand sign.

“Godspeed to Nichelle Nichols, champion, warrior and tremendous actor. Her kindness and bravery lit the path for many. May she forever dwell among the stars."

Even the official NASA Twitter account paid its respects, saying, "We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously once told Nichols, “Don’t you realize how important your presence, your character is? ... Don’t you see? This is not a Black role, and this is not a female role. You have the first non stereotypical role on television, male or female. You have broken ground. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people — as we should be.”

Dr. King would not see just how much ground Nichols would break, but she did live long and prosper. Not only that, she fought for the right to prosper for everyone, and she will be remembered fondly as the hero she is.

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

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