Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 89

Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed communications officer Uhura on the master “ Star Trek ” serial, died Saturday nox in Silver City, N.M. She was 89 years old .
Nichols ’ end was confirmed by Gilbert Bell, her endowment coach and business partner of 15 years .
Nichols shared one of the first interracial kisses in television receiver history on “ Star Trek. ” That moment, with her co-star William Shatner, was a brave act on the part of her, “ Star Trek ” creator Gene Roddenberry and NBC considering the climate at the clock time, but the episode “ Plato ’ mho Stepchildren, ” which aired in 1968, was written to give all involved an out : Uhura and Captain Kirk did not choose to kiss but were alternatively made to do indeed involuntarily by aliens with the ability to control the movements of humans. however, it was a landmark moment .

There had been a couple of interracial kisses on american television receiver before. A year earlier on “ Movin ’ With Nancy, ” Sammy Davis Jr. kissed Nancy Sinatra on the boldness in what appeared to be a spontaneous gesture but was in fact cautiously planned. The Uhura-Kirk kiss was likely the first telecast white/African american lip-to-lip snog .
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, Nichelle Nichols, wearing her communications ear piece, 1982. (c)Paramount. Courtesy: Everett Collection.
But Uhura, whose identify comes from a Swahili bible meaning “ exemption, ” was essential beyond the interracial kiss : A capable military officer who could man other stations on the bridge when the need arise, she was one of the first african american women to be featured in a non-menial function on television receiver .
Nichols played Lt. Uhura on the original series, voiced her on “ Star Trek : The Animated Series ” and played Uhura in the first gear six “ Star Trek ” films. Uhura was promoted to lieutenant air force officer in “ Star Trek : The Motion Picture ” and to full commander in “ Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan. ”
Nichols mulled leaving “ Star Trek ” after the first season to pursue a career on Broadway, but the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a winnow of the series and understood the importance of her fictional character in opening doors for other african Americans on television, personally persuaded her to stay on the picture, she told astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in an interview for the Archive of American Television .
Whoopi Goldberg, who later played Guinan on “ Star Trek : The next Generation, ” has described Uhura as a function model, recalling that she was astounded and excited to see a black woman character on television receiver who was not a maid .
Nichols and Shatner remembered the shoot of the celebrated kiss identical differently. In “ Star Trek Memories, ” Shatner said NBC insisted that the actors ’ lips never actually touch ( though they appear to ). But in Nichols ’ 1994 autobiography “ Beyond Uhura, ” the actress insisted that the kiss was in fact very. skittish about audience reaction, the network insisted that alternate takes be shot with and without a snog, but Nichols and Shatner measuredly flubbed every one of the latter so NBC would be forced to air what appeared to be a kiss ( whether their lips actually touched or not ) .
Both the “ Star Trek ” and “ Movin ’ With Nancy ” moments drew some negative reactions, though Nichols recalled that the fan mail was overwhelmingly positive and supportive .

NASA late employed Nichols in an campaign to encourage women and african Americans to become astronauts. NASA Astronaut Group 8, selected in 1978, included the first women and ethnic minorities to be recruited, including three who were Black. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black womanhood to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, cited “ Star Trek ” as an influence in her decisiveness to join the space agency.

Nichols remained a athletic supporter of the space program for decades .
In 1991, Nichols became the first base african American woman to have her handprints immortalized at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The ceremony besides included other members of the original “ Star Trek ” project .
Born Grace Nichols in Robbins, Ill. on Dec. 28, 1932, Nichols began her usher business career at long time 16 tattle with Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. late, she sang with his set .
She studied in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Her break came with an appearance in Oscar Brown ’ s high-profile but doomed 1961 musical “ Kicks and Co., ” in which she played campus queen Hazel Sharpe, who ’ s tempted by the devil and Orgy Magazine to become “ Orgy Maiden of the Month. ” The play closed after its brief Chicago audition, but Nichols attracted the attention of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, who booked her at his Chicago Playboy Club .
Nichols besides appeared in the character of Carmen for a Chicago stock company production of “ Carmen Jones ” and performed in a New York production of “ Porgy and Bess, ” making her feature of speech debut in an uncredited role as a dancer in an adaptation of that work in 1959. ( later she would display her singing talents on occasion on “ Star Trek. ” )
While working in Chicago, Nichols was doubly nominated for that city ’ s theatrical Sarah Siddons Award for best actress. The first came for “ Kicks and Co., ” while the second was for her performance in Jean Genet ’ s “ The Blacks. ”
She had small roles in the films “ Made in Paris, ” “ Mr. Buddwing ” and the Sandra Dee fomite “ Doctor, You ’ ve Got to Be Kidding ! ” before she was cast on “ Star Trek. ”
During the early ’ 60s, before “ Star Trek, ” Nichols had an matter with Gene Roddenberry that lasted respective years, according to her autobiography. The affair ended when Roddenberry realized he was in love with Majel Hudec, whom he married. When Roddenberry ’ s health was failing decades later, Nichols co-wrote a song for him, entitled “ Gene, ” that she sang at his funeral .
In January 1967, Nichols was featured on the cover of Ebony magazine, which published two sport articles on her within five years .
In the early on ’ 70s, the actress made a few guest appearances on television and appeared in the 1974 Blaxploitation film “ Truck Turner ” starring Isaac Hayes. She appeared in a defend function in a 1983 television adaptation of “ Antony and Cleopatra ” that besides featured her “ Star Trek ” co-star Walter Koenig. She starred with Maxwell Caulfield and Talia Balsam in the 1986 repugnance sci-fi feature “ The Supernaturals. ”
late, Nichols began to do articulation work, lending her endowment to the enliven series “ Gargoyles ” and “ Spider-Man. ” She besides voiced herself on “ Futurama. ”
The actress played the mother of Cuba Gooding Jr. ’ sulfur leash character in 2002 ’ second “ Snow Dogs ” and Miss Mable in the 2005 Ice Cube drollery “ Are We There yet ? ”

In 2007, Nichols recurred on the second season of the NBC drama “ Heroes ” as Nana Dawson, matriarch of a New Orleans kin devastated by Hurricane Katrina who cares for her orphaned grandchild and great-nephew, Micah Sanders ( series regular Noah Gray-Cabey ). The come year she appeared in the films “ Tru Loved ” and “ The Torturer. ”
Nichols suffered a stroke in 2015 and was diagnosed with dementia in 2018, touching off a conservatorship challenge between her director Bell and her son american samoa well as a ally .
Nichols was married and divorced twice. She is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson .

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