Nichelle Nichols, who starred as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series and in subsequent films, is dead at the age of 89.
Star Trek fans owe a thank you to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If not for him, the actress would have walked away from the role that would make her famous. She was all set to return to the stage at the end of the first season. Nichols had taken the weekend off to think about her future and attended a NAACP event. It just so happened that a fan wanted to meet with her at the event. As we now know, it wasn’t just any ordinary fan but the Civil Rights leader. If not for this, it’s unlikely that her greater legacy would extend well beyond the TV series and motion pictures. When she mentioned Dr. King’s comments to undo her resignation, Gene Roddenberry even had tears in his eyes. I’m getting chills just typing about it! I’m getting to her NASA work in a few.
But for all of her Star Trek work, her legacy lives on through her work with NASA. None of it would happen without her attending a 1975 convention. While Jesco von Puttkamer was speaking during the convention, Nichols had one thing on her mind: the lack of women and minorities. While women and minorities did work at NASA, none of them were working as astronauts. A chat with John Yardley would later pave the way for the formation of Women In Motion Inc. and the rest is history. Without Nichols stepping in, it’s highly unlikely that NASA would receive some 8,000 applications. Feel free to check out Woman in Motion on Paramount+. The documentary initially premiered as a Fathom Events screening in early 2021 before having a digital release.
Until her dementia diagnosis, the actress had been a staple on the convention circuit. Her presence was certainly missing earlier this year during Star Trek: Missions Chicago. Meanwhile, Nyota Uhura lives on through Celia Rose Gooding and Zoe Saldaña.
May Nichelle Nichols’s memory be for a blessing.
Woman in Motion is streaming on Paramount+.
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