Groundbreaking 'Star Trek' actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

The actress went on to earn the admiration of many fans, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Updated: July 31, 2022 - 4:28pm

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Nichelle Nichols, who played communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura in the original "Star Trek" television series and later the "Star Trek" movies, died at 89 from natural causes. 

"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," her son Kyle Johnson confirmed her death on her Facebook page Sunday.

She is famous for sharing one of the first interracial kisses on television with costar William Shatner in 1968.

NASA later hired Nichols to encourage African Americans and women to join the agency.

Nichols was born in 1932 in Robbins, a suburb of Chicago.

The actress went on to earn the admiration of many fans, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who urged her to stay on the show when she wanted to leave.

"He told me that Star Trek was one of the only shows that his wife Coretta and he would allow their little children to stay up and watch," she said in a documentary. "And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face and he said, 'You can’t do that. Don’t you understand, for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen? You don’t have a Black role. You have an equal role.'"

"Star Trek" costar George Takei tweeted in tribute to her.

"I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend," he wrote.

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