Members of the Star Trek universe are taking to social media to praise their iconic co-star and colleague Nichelle Nichols, who passed away on July 30.
Nichols’ groundbreaking turn as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on Star Trek was one of the first uplifting characterizations of Black women in television and a departure from the previous demeaning stereotypes.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a transformative meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King helped Nichols understand her influence as a positive role model, especially for Black women and children. He encouraged her to forgo other opportunities and continue her work on Star Trek.
In November 1968, Star Trek Episode 10, Season 3: Plato’s Children, featured the first high profile interracial kiss between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Her former co-star tweeted a thoughtful eulogy of Nichols, highlighting the cultural significance of her work.
George Takei was deeply saddened by the loss of his friend and former colleague.
Kate Mulgrew praised Nichols’ courage and exceptional ability to maneuver the many difficulties she faced as she challenged and changed biases.
J. J. Abrams warmly expressed his admiration for Nichols and sent condolences to her family.
Actor Karl Urban, who succeeded DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, described Nichols as a legend.
Marina Sirtis who played Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation shared her gratitude for the example Nichols set.
Nichols was born in Robbins, Illinois on Dec. 28, 1932. A natural entertainer, she studied dance and music in addition to theater. Twice married and divorced, she had one child with her first husband, Foster Johnson.
After the Star Trek television series, Nichols worked as an ambassador for NASA in a successful effort to recruit diverse talent to the space agency. She continued acting until 2019.
Her son, Kyle Johnson, announced the loss of his mother on her official website:
Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. 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. Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.
Nichols died of heart failure in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old.