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She went where no one has gone before: A tribute to ’Star Trek’ legend Nichelle Nichols

Courtesy of IMDb.

By Jamie Miller

Hello readers, it’s me again, here to do a part of my job I really wish I didn’t have to. For it is with a heavy heart I am writing on the death of legendary actress Nichelle Nichols who passed away on July 30 at the age of 89.

Nichols, who began acting in 1959, got her big break in “Star Trek: The Original Series” playing Lt. Nyota Uhura, the Enterprises communications officer, a role she would reprise in six films, an animated series and many other works. Though she would appear in other works such as “Heroes” and “The Young and the Restless,” Uhura is the role she is most recognized for, and for good reason. To modern day audiences, the character may just be a black woman in a TV show, but that right there is what made the character so important. She wasn’t cast as a maid or a goofy sidekick. She was an equal. There was no parody, no caricature. In an era where most black characters functioned in menial roles such as maids, Nichols’ role meant something to people, including a young Whoopi Goldberg who sought her own role in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” due to her being a lifelong fan of the series, all because of Nichols.

And it wasn’t just actors she inspired, she recruited quite a few astronauts to NASA, among them Sally Ride, Judith Resnik and Ronald McNair. Even Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan, having inspired Nichols not to leave the show.

Nichols is survived by her son Kyle Johnson, and as someone who literally grew up watching “Star Trek,” my heart is saddened, rest in peace Ms. Nichols.

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