Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura on 'Star Trek,' dies at 89

Actress and singer Nichelle Nichols, best known as Star Trek's communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, died Saturday night in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old.

Nichols was one of the first Black women featured in a major television series, and her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original TV series was groundbreaking: an African American woman whose name came from Uhuru, the Swahili word for "freedom."

In 1968, Nichols made headlines when Uhura shared an intimate kiss with Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) in an episode called "Plato's Stepchildren." Their interracial kiss on the lips was revolutionary, one of the first such moments on TV.

Nichols portrayed communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura in the "Star Trek" TV series and many of its film offshoots.

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

She helped NASA in making the agency more diverse, helping to recruit astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik and Guion Bluford, among others.

Nichols was born on December 28th, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois. Before joining the cast of Star Trek, Nichols toured with jazz artist Duke Ellington as a dancer and singer, and later starred in the 1959 film Porgy and Bess, as well as The Lieutenant television series (1964).

Nichols was born Grace Dell Nichols near Chicago in 1932. (Unhappy with Grace, she took the name Nichelle when she was a teenager.) Her grandfather was a White Southerner who married a Black woman, causing a rift in his family.

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