Celebrating the life, legacy, and luminosity of the great Nichelle Nichols.
The woman was legendary. When my sisters and I first set our eyes on the woman of color who sat on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, we were awestruck. Her character, Lt. Nyota Uhura was Communications Officer and crew member.
Every Star Trek episode left us transfixed, inspired, and filled with pride. I am at a loss for words to describe what I felt as a young black girl when I first saw Nichelle Nichols on our television screen. An African American woman starring in a science fiction series.
She was the first. I find it trite to use the words pioneer, trailblazer, etc. It’s true she was, but so much more.
Nichol’s presence on screen meant so much to so many, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his family. She was contemplating leaving the show midway through the first season. She thought her presence on the show didn’t make a difference. A impromptu meeting with Dr. King changed her mind.
“He told me that Star Trek was one of the only shows his wife Coretta and he would allow their little children to stay up and watch,” she recalled. “I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face and he said, ‘You can’t do that. Don’t you understand, for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen? You don’t have a Black role. You have an equal role.’’ Nichelle Nichols
Ms. Nichols was more than just an actress playing a role in a television show. She admonished NASA for not recruiting more women and minorities in their training programs. NASA responded by appointing Nichols as an ambassador. Astronaut Sally Ride is one of the astronauts that applied to NASA because of Nichols.
Grace Dell Nichols, AKA “Nichelle” was an accomplished singer, dancer, actress, activist, ambassador, and humanitarian. She will always be in the hearts of all who admired and looked up to her.