Nichelle Nichols, breakthrough ‘Star Trek’ actress, dead at 89

Nichelle Nichols, the breakthrough actress who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek series, has died.

She was 89.

Nichols’ death was confirmed on Sunday by her son, Kyle Johnson, on her website. Johnson said his mother died of natural causes.

“However, like the ancient galaxies that are now being seen for the first time, their light will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by,” Johnson said in a statement posted on the website has been published.

Johnson said his mother’s life was “well lived and as such was a role model for” everyone. He asked for privacy for the family.

Nichols and her Star Trek character Uhura broke barriers as one of the first black female leads on television.

Rod Roddenberry, executive producer of the current versions of Star Trek and son of series creator Gene Roddenberry, mourned the death of Nichols on Sunday.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of legendary icon Nichelle Nichols,” he tweeted. “No words.”

Nichols, was born Grace Nichols in Illinois. She was discovered in Chicago by composer and musician Duke Ellington as a teenager while working as a dancer and choreographer, according to the National Space Societyfor which Nichols served on the Board of Governors.

“As I learned to believe in my talent, my voice, myself, I learned I could make others believe, too,” Nichols wrote of her website.

Prior to his appearance on Star Trek, Nichols was an accomplished dancer but only had a handful of acting roles.

Nichols appeared in the first season of “Star Trek” in 1966. Initially, she considered leaving the series as she felt her character lacked depth. However, after meeting Martin Luther King Jr., who was a fan of the show, she decided to stay.

Back then, she worked with Roddenberry to bring revolutionary authority and dominance to Uhura, something unprecedented in this era of television.

“When I was on these wonderful sets with all the cast, the universe of ‘Star Trek’ felt less like a fantasy and more like an opportunity to lay the foundation for what we’re going to see in the 23rd century confirmation from Uhura as we eagerly await her arrival,” Nichols wrote on her website.

One moment that blew boundaries was a kiss between Nichols’ Uhura and William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk in the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” The episode helped reshape what television viewers found acceptable and was an early statement about the acceptance of interracial marriages.

After the end of the original “Star Trek,” Nichols became a spokesperson for NASA, according to her website. She helped recruit astronauts and appeared in PSAs.

NASA credited Nichols with helping recruit Sally Ride and Frederick Gregory Los Angeles Times.

“By motivating her the way others once did me, it’s like my life has come back, coming full circle to where a young woman’s dreams began,” she wrote of the experience on her website.

In her autobiography, she wrote that she loved attending “Star Trek” conventions, the LA Times reported.

Following news of her death, co-stars and admirers alike mourned her loss.

“I’ll have more to say about the groundbreaking, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who served as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise shared the bridge with us and died today at the age of 89. For today my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars under which you now rest, my dearest friend.” tweeted George Takei, who starred alongside Nichols as Star Trek helmsman Hikaru Sulu.

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., praised Nichols for representing her.

“Representation is important. Excellence in representation is even more important. Thank you, #NichelleNichols,” she wrote. “Rest well, ancestor.” Nichelle Nichols, breakthrough ‘Star Trek’ actress, dead at 89

Fry Electronics Team

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