RIP Nichelle Nichols

Trailblazing actress Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek, passed away Saturday of natural causes.

When “Star Trek” began in 1966, Nichols was a television rarity: a Black woman in a notable role on a prime-time television series. There had been African-American women on TV before, but they often played domestic workers and had small roles; Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural “Star Trek” crew.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called it “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history.”

In fact, it was King who convinced Nichols of the importance of her work on Star Trek. Nichols also broke ground for television's first scripted interracial kiss. After Star Trek, Nichols worked for NASA to recruit women and minorities as astronauts, engineers, and administrators.

Nichelle Nichols was 89.

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