Nichelle Nichols is most known for her portrayal of Lt. Commander Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series. Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural “Star Trek” cast, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. heralded her as “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history.” The legendary actress, activist, singer, and dancer was born on December 28, 1932, in Robbins, Illinois near Chicago. Nichols died of natural causes on Sunday, July 31, reported by her son, Kyle Johnson.
After her television career ended, Nichols pivoted to advocating for a more diverse astronaut corps that included women and other races, culminating in a NASA-funded campaign to recruit the first women and Black astronauts in the 1970s. The efforts of her achievements are featured in the documentary Woman in Motion, which chronicles her four-month campaign to recruit the first Black, Latino, and Asian men and women to fly in space. When asked about her work with NASA and her efforts to diversify careers in STEM, she stated “Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going. Space travel benefits us here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped yet. There’s more exploration to come.”
Throughout her life, Nichelle Nichols challenged us “to boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.”Nichelle Nichols had monumental accomplishments on camera but also the countless public service activities in which she was involved, from boards of governors on the National Space Society to promoting and advocating for STEM programs while challenging gender inequities in science and research were very impacting.
Nichols is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson.