Nichelle Nichols was one of the first black women to play the lead in a TV show. Later, she collaborated with NASA to find minority candidates for the space programme. Nichelle Nichols, aged 89, passed away on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.
She was a beloved actress among “Star Trek” fans worldwide for her portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the spaceship USS Enterprise. The cause was heart failure, according to Sky Conway, a writer and film producer who was requested to speak for the family by Mrs. Nichols’s son, Kyle Johnson.
Mrs. Nichols had a lengthy career as an artist as she began as a teenage singer and dancer in supper clubs in her hometown of Chicago and eventually performed on television shows. But she will always be best known for her work on Star Trek, the cult-favourite space adventure series that aired from 1966 to 1969.
The adventure series starred William Shatner as Captain Kirk, the brave captain of the starship crew; Leonard Nimoy, who passed away in 2015; De Forest Kelley, who passed away in 1999; and dr. McCoy the ship’s doctor known as Bones in the character.
Mrs. Nichols, a stunning beauty, added a sexy tinge to the enterprise’s link. On its 1967 cover, Ebony magazine dubbed her the “most blissful physique in ‘Star Trek'”; she typically wore a snug red doublet and black tights.
Uhura was a high-minded officer and a highly educated and skilled technician who carried out her high-minded tasks with a professional approach. Mrs. Nichols was he very first black women to play a significant role in any television series. Her rarity on the small screen Television, as black women had typically been shown in secondary positions.
During the third and final season of the programme, in November 1968, Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura were compelled to embrace by the inhabitants of an alien planet. This is what largely regarded as the first interracial kiss on television.
Mrs. Nichols’ initial appearances on “Star Trek” predate the 1968 sitcom “Julia,” in which Diahann Carroll made history as the first black women to play a non-stereotypical character on a network series as a widowed mother who works as a nurse.
Civil rights activists criticised “The Beulah Show,” which starred Ethel Waters as the maid for a white household in the early 1950s and later included Louise Beavers and Hattie McDaniel, for its derogatory portrayals of black people.
But Uhura’s impact went well beyond the little screen. Ms. Nichols started a relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1977, working as a speaker and advocate to support the recruitment of women and people of colour for spaceflight training. The first astronaut candidates to include women and others from underrepresented groups were in the class that was chosen the following year.
In the years that followed, Ms. Nichols represented the organization by appearing in public and recording PSAs. A NASA news release on the event in 2012 praised her contributions to the cause of diversity in space exploration as she delivered the keynote address at the Goddard Space Center’s celebration of African American History Month.
According to the press release, Nichols’ status as one of the first black characters on television who wasn’t just a stereotype and one of the first women in a leadership position as she motivated thousands of women and minorities.”
Grace Dell Nichols was born on December 28, 1932, in Robbins, Illinois, and she spent her childhood in Chicago. Her father is a chemist and once served as Robbins’ mayor. She requested a new name from her mother at the age of 13 or 14, becoming weary of being referred to as Gracie by her friends. Her mother preferred Michelle but recommended Nichelle for the consonance.
She later revealed that she possessed a singing voice with a range of more than four octaves and that she had been a ballet dancer as a young child. She obtained her first professional job in a revue at the College Inn, a well-known Chicago nightclub, while a student at Englewood High School.
Throughout the 1950s, Mrs. Nichols made appearances in a number of musical theatre plays across the nation. She recounted appearing at the Playboy Club in New York City when filling in for Ms. Carroll in the Broadway show “No Strings” in an interview with the Archive of American Television.
She performed as a dancer in the 1959 adaptation of “Porgy and Bess” by Otto Preminger. She made her television debut in 1963 in an episode of “The Lieutenant,” a brief drama series by Gene Roddenberry about Marines at Camp Pendleton. Roddenberry later went on to create Star Trek.
Over the years, Mrs. Nichols made appearances on a number of television programmes, including “Peyton Place” (1966), “Head of the Class” (1988), and “Heroes” (2007). She also made random stage appearances in Los Angeles, including one-woman performances in which she paid tribute to and impersonated Black female artists who came before her, such as Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, and Eartha Kitt.
However, Uhura was to become her most famous character. Ten years after “Star Trek” ended its run on television, Mrs. Nichols returned to the part in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” and she later played the commander-class Uhura in five more films up until 1991.