Star Trek: Exploring Nichelle Nichols' Legacy

Star Trek: Exploring Nichelle Nichols' Legacy ...

Nichelle Nichols is best known in pop culture as Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek (now known as Star Trek: The Original Series or TOS) but her legacy, however, is far greater. From her involvement in the Civil Rights movement to her extensive work recruiting women for NASA, her life has expanded not only to the fictional actors, but also to the real ones.

Star Trek, a series created during the 1960s, was a utopian vision for a future where humanity has shed its warlike nature, its greed and acquisitiveness, and, perhaps most significantly, its deep-seated racism. Everyone was aware of the program, and its significance for science fiction, storytelling, and the world at large, cant be overstated.

Grace Dell Nichols was born on December 28th, 1932, the third of six children in Robbins, Illinois, a city worker who had been elected mayor and magistrate in 1929. Her parents offered her Nichelle (victorious) and elle (maiden) in a bit of cheeky language play on the terms.

Nichols followed the careers of artists like Mahalia Jackson, Lena Horne, and Eartha Kitt, who, according to Nichols in a New York Post interview, all looked like me. She only got to perform this talent once on Star Trek, most notably the episodes Charlie X, The Conscience of the King, and The Changeling.) Ultimately, Nichols pursued a career on the stage, staring in Chicago plays with her eyes on the prize: making it in New York.

I grew up performing musical theater. For me, Broadway was the highest level, and thats where I would reign queen.

I was raised and developed in musical theater. For me, Broadway was the highest level, and that's where I'm going to reign queen.

Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was the communications specialist on the USS Enterprise's bridge, and she was often seen holding a hand to the earpiece she wore so that Captain Kirk could have a showdown with the villain of the week on television.

Per Nichols, the Civil Rights movement entered the picture in the form of a legendary figure and leader of the movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. She informed King of her intention to leave the series behind, and he stopped her.

For the first time, television has played a non-stereotypical, non-menial role. You have given us strength, beauty, and intelligence. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen. This is what we were marching for. Youre a role model, and you belong to history now.

Bernice King, MLK's daughter, tweeted to inform the public about Nichols' passing. In response to King's words, Nichols would continue to watch the series until it ends, and rejoin the films later.

Nichols co-wrote plays, starred in soap operas and other sci-fi shows like Heroes (and played herself humorously on Futurama), and produced two albums. NASA itself credits her with instilling a whole generation of women and people of color to the organization and into STEM fields.

Nichelle Nichols was a member of the National Space Institute's board of governors in 1982, and she was invited to see the Viking 1 landing on Mars as a special guest of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1976. She was also a member of the National Space Institute's board of governors in 1992, and in 2015 she became a flyer for eight hours while inspecting the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn.

Nichols passed away on July 30, 2022, leaving a long legacy of advocacy and subtle craft behind. Having once acted among the stars of a soundstage, she has now entered the cosmos itself, but her legacy remains strong here on Earth.