Actress Nichelle Nichols, whose trailblazing portrayal of Lt. Nyota Uhura on TV’s original “Star Trek” series broke racial barriers, has died. She was 89.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” her son, Kyle Johnson, wrote on his mother’s Facebook page Sunday.
“Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration,” he said. “Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.
“I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.”
Johnson said his mother died in Silver City, NM.
George Takei, who portrayed Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the series, tweeted that he would “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,” Takei wrote.
Nasa tweeted that Nichols “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,” the US space agency said.
Nichols’ “Star Trek” role broke stereotypes for black actresses at a time when black women were mostly portrayed in roles as servants rather than authority figures.
She was urged by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 to stick with the series after she told him she had decided not to return for the show’s second season.
“When I told him I was going to miss my co-stars and I was leaving the show, he became very serious and said, ‘You cannot do that,’ ” she said to the Tulsa World in a 2008 interview.
“ ‘You’ve changed the face of television forever, and therefore, you’ve changed the minds of people,’ ” she said the civil-rights leader added.
She ended up staying with the series from 1966 to its end in 1969.
In one groundbreaking television moment, she and co-star William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, shared an interracial onscreen kiss, which was unheard of at the time. The two characters always had a platonic relationship on the show but were forced by aliens controlling their brains to kiss in one episode.
Starting in 1979, she appeared in the first of six of the series’ movie spinoffs along with other original cast members.
More recently, she appeared on the television series “Heroes.”
Nichols faced health issues in the past few years.
It was reported in 2018 that she was diagnosed with dementia. In 2015, she suffered a stroke.