Entertainer and vocalist Nichelle Nichols, most popular as Star Journey’s official correspondent, Lieutenant Uhura, passed by Saturday night in Silver City, New Mexico. He is 89 years old.
“I regret to enlighten you that the extraordinary light in the atmosphere no longer shines for us as it has for countless years,” his son Kyle Johnson wrote on the Uhura.com website. “The light, however, is similar to the old cosmic system that is currently seen as the main opportunity, will remain for ourselves and people in the future to appreciate, acquire and attract motivation.”
Nichols is one of the main People of Color highlighted in the important TV series, and his work as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the first television series is noteworthy: an African-American woman whose name comes from Uhuru, the Swahili word for “opportunity.”
“Here I am projecting in the 23rd century what should be very basic,” Nichols told NPR in 2011. “We are on a starship. I am the head of official correspondence. Fourth in the starship. They don’t see this as, gracefully, it didn’t happen until 23 hundred years. Children and adults alike regard it as it is today.”
In 1968, Nichols stood out as truly newsworthy when Uhura gave Commander James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) a private kiss in an episode called “Plato’s Stepson.” Their interracial kiss on the lips was progressive, quite possibly the second earliest on television.
Nichols conceived Beauty Dell Nichols in a Chicago suburb where his father was chairman of the city. She grew up singing and moving, trying to star in melodic theatre. He had his most memorable break in 1961’s melodic Kicks and Co., a not-so-subtle Playboy parody. He was the star of Carmen Jones’s Chicago stock organization, and in New York acted in Porgy and Bess.
‘As far as I’m concerned, the features and encapsulation of my life as a vocalist and entertainer and artist/choreographer will be on Broadway,’ he told NPR in 2011, including as his Star Trip fame grew, he started getting different offers. “I concluded that I was planning to go, go to New York and get on the Broadway stage.”
Nichols said he went to Quality Roddenberry, the makers of Star Trip, and reported him quitting. “He was very upset about it. Next, he says, take a weekend and reflect on what I’m trying to accomplish here on this show. You are an important and vital part of it.”
So later that week, he went to an NAACP fundraising event in Beverly Slopes and was approached to meet a man who said he was his ultimate fan: Martin Luther Ruler, Jr.
“He complimented me on how I made that person. I thanked him, and I assumed I was saying something like, ‘Dr. Lord, I want to be out there walking with you.’ He said, ‘no, no, no. No, you don’t have the most obscure idea. We don’t require you to… walk. You are walking. You reflect what we stand for.’ In this way, I told him, ‘thank you very much. Besides, I will miss my co-stars.’”
“His face became very, very serious,” he commented. “Also, he came out, ‘whatever are you discussing?’ And I said, ‘all things considered, I told Quality just yesterday that I would be leaving the show after the main year since I was advertised… Also, he stopped me and said: ‘You can’t do that.’ I’m confused. He said, ‘don’t you know what this man has accomplished? Interestingly, we are seen around the world the way we should be seen. According to him, do you understand that this is the main show that I and the other Corettas I will allow for our little ones to stay awake and watch.’ I was astonished.”
Nichols returned to the series, which ran until 1969. He also reprized his acclaimed work in the resulting six highlight films, including Star Journey II: The Anger of Khan, in which Uhura was elevated to authority.
For a long time, Nichols also expanded on the original space program, helping to enlist the space explorers Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Guion Bluford, and others. Also, she has her own science establishment, Ladies Moving.
“Many entertainers become stars, but a few stars can move a country,” tweeted entertainer Lynda Carter, who played Miracle Lady on television during the 1970s. “Nichelle Nichols is showing us the phenomenal power of People of color and preparing for a future that excels for all women in media. Thanks a lot to you, Nichelle. We will miss you.”
George Takei, who co-starred on Star Journey as helmsman Hikaru Sulu tweeted: “I will say more about exploration, the wonderful Nichelle Nichols, who gave us an extension as Lt. Uhura from USS Undertaking,” the composition. “For now, my heart is heavy, my eyes sparkle like the stars you are in right now, my closest friend.”
He also posted a photo of his long-lasting partner, the two of them welcoming Vulcan’s arrival, and these words: “We lived long and made it together.”