Nichelle Nichols, who broke barriers for black women in Hollywood when she played communications officer Lieutenant Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series, has died at the age of 89.
Her son Kyle Johnson said Nichols died on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.
“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,” Johnson wrote on her official Facebook page on Sunday.
“Hers was a life well-lived and as such a model for us all.”
Her role in the 1966-69 series as Lieutenant Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong position of honour with the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. It also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
She often recalled how the Reverand Martin Luther King Jr was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.
Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spin-offs starting in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and frequented Star Trek fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
More recently, she had a recurring role on the television show Heroes, playing the great-aunt of a young boy with mystical powers.