Actress Nichelle Nichols, known for playing Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, has died at 89. Her son Kyle Johnson shared a statement on Nichols’ official website, saying, “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.” Nichols was one of the first black actresses to play an integral part in a major series. She was even part of one of the earliest interracial kisses on television in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Her significant role as an iconic Star Trek character made Nichols a trailblazer.
Nichelle Nichols Gives Final Farewell
Nichols’ death comes seven months after she made her final conference appearance at L.A. Comic-Con in December 2021 as part of a three-day farewell celebration. Nichols had been diagnosed with dementia in 2018 and was at the center of a conservatorship battle related to her condition. However, the actress was smiling, signing autographs, and posing for pictures the whole time. During the event, Nichols was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal to recognize her activism for diversity in NASA’s ranks. She rose from her chair to accept the award, and Johnson spoke on her behalf, saying:
“A life well-lived is reward enough, every day, and my mother’s certainly had a life well lived in many respects. This is an exceptional recognition, and I’m of course very proud of her for all that she’s done, and the value and the meaning of her work. Not just as an actress, but very real and important work that she inspired and enabled people to understand.”
Nichelle Nichols ‘Star Trek’ Legacy
Nichols’ role in the original Star Trek opened the door for more strong roles for black actresses, including roles in the Star Trek franchise. Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays the lead role of Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, has cited Nichols as an inspiration. Whoopi Goldberg also had a notable role as Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Picard. The latter show will soon air its final season.
Actress Nichelle Nichols was a source of inspiration and a legend in the Star Trek franchise.