Actress Nichelle Nichols, known for playing Nyota Uhura in the celebrated Star Trek series, has died at the age of 89 in New Mexico, her son announced Sunday on Facebook:
I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has done for so many years. Last night my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and died.
Nichols had health problems in recent years, suffering a small stroke in 2015, which caused dementia. As a tribute, memorial flowers will be placed on her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Nichelle Nichols, the black star of Star Trek
The actress started her career as a singer in the United States, Canada and Europe, but it was not until her performance in Star Trek that she rose to stardom. Nichols helped break down television's racial barriers by featuring a black woman in a prime-time lead. In addition, she shared with Canadian actor William Shatner one of the first kisses of an interracial couple on American television. They did so in 1968, in the midst of the battle for African-American civil rights in the United States.
Nichols wanted to work on Broadway and intended to leave the series after its first season, she recounted in several subsequent interviews, but civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr. changed his mind. He told her that her role in the series was showcasing the children and women of the African American community in the U.S. that they could have the same rights as whites and, for that reason, she should continue to bring Nyota Uhura to life.
After fulfilling her role in the series that lasted 6 seasons, Nichols was involved in the space race, working as a recruiter for NASA. Her work was to encourage African Americans and women of all races to consider careers at the space agency. NASA paid tribute to her in a tweet, calling her a "pioneer and role model" who "symbolized for so many what was possible" to achieve.
We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars. pic.twitter.com/pmQaKDb5zw
— NASA (@NASA) July 31, 2022
Biden pays tribute to her
President Joe Biden made a statement on the death of the actress, affirming that America will always be indebted to artists like Nichelle Nichols. He said that she was an example of life, as the daughter of a working family, and her legacy will remain intact in the lives of Americans:
Our nation will forever be indebted to inspirational artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future in which unity, dignity and respect are the cornerstones of any society.