I woke up Sunday thinking about Nichelle Nichols. I was just wondering about her. Later, the alert came across my phone. She had died. Strange how these things happen, right?
If you know me, you know I’m a Star Trek fan. I prefer “Trekker” to “Trekkie.” I remember being a kid in Paris, Texas, watching Star Trek. I’m old enough to remember the first run episodes on NBC. As I got older, I watched the reruns every day.
Nichelle Nichols played Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. I read this morning that the character’s first name was “Nyota.” I don’t ever remember her first name being said on that show. Apparently, it was never used until one of the recent movies with another actress playing the character, Zoe Saldana.
Nichelle Nichols was a trailblazer. According to the New York Times, she was among the first Black women to have a leading role on a network television series.
Her character, Lt. Uhura was an officer and highly educated. It was 1967, Black women on TV didn’t have those kinds of roles. Whoppi Goldberg tells a great story. The first time she saw Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, she yelled, “I just saw a Black woman on TV, and she ain’t no maid!” Interesting to note, Whoopi Goldberg ended up on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Nichelle Nichols will also be remembered for something else she did on Star Trek. She kissed Captain Kirk. It is widely thought to be the first interracial kiss in television history.
I love this story about Nichelle Nichols. She was not happy about her role on Star Trek. She wanted to leave the show. Then, she met someone who said he was her biggest fan.
It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. When she told him she was leaving the show, Dr. King said, “You cannot. You cannot.”
Dr King saw the big picture. He saw how important that role was to the Civil Rights Movement. He saw how it could inspire young Black women.
Nichols recalled Dr. King saying, “For the first time, we will be seen on television the way we should be seen everyday.” Nichols then went to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and told him what happened. “I said, if you still want me to stay, I’ll stay. I have to.”
Nichelle Nichols finished the Star Trek series. She appeared in several Star Trek movies.
I love that she really worked in the space program too. Nichols helped NASA recruit female and minority candidates for space flight training.
Nichelle Nichols Star Trek co-star, George Takei, had a lovely tweet: “… my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.
I watched a few Star Trek episodes last night. Not unusual for me. I’ll watch a few more today. Love that show. I can still see myself in our family room in Paris,Texas, watching Star Trek instead of doing homework.
George Takei ended his tweet about Nichelle Nichols like this: “We lived long and prospered together.” I love that. If you are a Trekker, you know exactly what that means.