Nichelle Nichols: Star Trek’s Uhura Dead at 89

Nichelle Nichols in Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA. Courtesy of Shout! Factory.

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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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.