Pioneering ‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

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“Last night my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies seen now for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy. , learn and be inspired,” Johnson said in a statement shared to Nichols’ official website on Sunday. “His was a life well lived and as such a role model for all of us.”

Nichols died of natural causes, he said.

Nichols portrayed communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura in the television series “Star Trek” and many of its film offshoots.

When “Star Trek” began in 1966, Nichols was a television rarity: a black woman in a notable role on a primetime television series. There had been African American women on television before, but they often played servants and had small roles; Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural “Star Trek” team.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called it “the first non-stereotypical role played by a black woman in the history of television”.

Nichols is widely known for being part of one of the first interracial kisses on American television when her character kissed James T. Kirk, played by white Canadian actor William Shatner. In a 2014 interview with CNN, Nichols said the kiss scene “changed television forever, and it changed the way people looked at each other as well.”

After the three-season run of “Trek,” Nichols devoted herself to the space program. She helped NASA diversify the agency, helping recruit astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, and Guion Bluford, among others.

George Takei, who played USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu, has posted a touching tribute to his co-star.

“I will have more to say about the pioneering and incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the deck with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at age 89,” Takei wrote on Twitter. “For today my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars among which you now rest, my dearest friend.”

“We have lived long and prospered together,” he added along with a photo of the couple giving the iconic Vulcan salute.

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