Most people know the American Nichelle Nichols, who died on Saturday at the age of 89, as an actress. But she was more than that. As one of the first black women in a popular series (Star Trek) and with her work for NASA she was an example to many.Door Isabel Ockers
In 1966, Nichols is one of the first black actresses in a primetime TV series. She is cast as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek-series. For years, Uhura sits on the bridge of the starship Enterprise with other important characters like Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy). A lead role in a series like Star Trek is still very unusual for a black woman in the 1960s. With her work, Nichols inspires other black women to take up acting too.
And not only that: Uhura’s kiss with Captain Kirk is the first kiss between a black and a white person on American television.
Martin Luther King persuades Nichols to overtake Star Trek to keep playing. After the first season of the series, the actress actually wants to stop to focus on musicals again. But Reverend and human rights activist King is a fan of the science fiction series and convinces Nichols to continue.
“He said, ‘It’s important that people who are not black see this show, see you in this role. For the first time, they see us as we should be seen: as equals,'” Nichols told 1992. Entertainment Tonight.
When it comes to an end Star Trek Nichols will partner with space agency NASA. She is the face of a campaign that encourages minorities and women to become astronauts. According to NASA, Nichols is thus laying the foundation for people of color who now work as astronauts at NASA.
NASA CEO Bill Nelson calls Nichols “a groundbreaking actress and close friend of NASA”. At a time when black women were rarely seen on screen, Nichelle’s portrayal as Nyota Uhura involved Star Trek America a mirror that strengthened civil rights,” Nelson said in a statement following the actress’s death.
“Nichelle’s advocacy was forward-thinking the television landscape, transforming NASA. After Apollo 11, Nichelle made it her mission to inspire women and people of color to join us. We share the same mission as Nichelle. As we work to bring the sending the first woman and first person of color to the moon, we honor the legacy of Nichelle Nichols.”
After Star Trek stops, Nichols can still be seen in various films and series. She has a role in the series Heroes and plays them several times Star Trekspin-offs. In addition, it can be seen in several Star Trekmovies that came after the original series. She can also be heard as a voice actor in animated Star Trek-series.
Kyle Johnson announced his mother’s death on Facebook on Sunday. Johnson said Nichols’ “light will continue to shine” and she will “continue to inspire us and future generations.” Johnson also shares a photo of Nichols’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a few red roses on it.
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