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Star Trek lead actress Nichelle Nichols has passed away at the age of 89

“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and died. However, her light, like ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from and be inspired by,” Johnson said in a statement sent to Nichols’ official website on Sunday. “It’s been a good life, and therefore a role model for all of us.”

Nichols said he died of natural causes.

Nichols portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Nyota Oora in the TV series “Star Trek” and several of his films.

When “Star Trek” began in 1966, Nichols was a rarity on television: a black woman playing a prominent role in a prime-time television series. There were African American women on television before, but they often played domestic workers and had small roles; Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural “Star Trek” crew.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. described it as “the first atypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history.”

Nichols is widely known for her participation in one of the first interracial kisses on American television when she kissed her character James T. Kirk, portrayed by white Canadian actor William Shatner. In an interview with CNN in 2014, Nichols said that the kiss scene “changed television forever, and it also changed the way people look at each other.”

After running “Trek” for three seasons, Nichols has dedicated herself to the space program. NASA has helped make the agency more diverse, and has helped recruit astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnick, and Jon Bluford, among others.

George Takei, who portrayed USS Enterprise captain Hikaru Solo, posted a touching tribute to his co-star.

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

“We lived long and prospered together,” he added, with a photo of the two giving the famous Vulcan salute.

The National Air and Space Museum described Nichols as “an inspiration to many, not only for her pioneering work on Star Trek but also through her work with NASA to recruit women and people of color to apply to become astronauts.” on Twitter.
Stacy Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, also paid tribute to the actress. Abrams wrote: “Good luck to Nichelle Nichols, a wonderful hero, warrior, and actor.” On Twitter along with a photo of her with Nichols. “Her kindness and courage light the way for so many. May she dwell forever among the stars.”

Nichols was born Grace Dale Nichols near Chicago in 1932. (Unhappy with Grace, she took the name Nichelle when she was a teen.) Her grandfather was a Southern white who married a black woman, causing a rift in his family.

Blessed with a vocal range of four octaves, Nichols performed at local clubs when she was 14. She has also worked extensively in Chicago clubs and theatre.

She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s and landed a role on Gene Roddenberry’s series, “The Lieutenant.” Also on the show were a number of Star Trek veterans, including Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, and Magel Barrett.

When Roddenberry was composing Trek, Nichols remembered. She was in Europe when she received the call.

“(My agent said), they’re doing Star Trek, and I didn’t know what Star Trek was,” she said in an interview with the Television Academy.

Uhura was not in the original, and Nichols was responsible for the name. She was reading a book called “Uhuru” – “Freedom” in Swahili – and suggested that her character take the name. Roddenberry thought it was too tough.

‘I said, ‘Well, why don’t you change it, soften the end with an ‘A’, and it’ll be Uhura?’ You remember.” He said, “That’s it, that’s your name! I named it; it’s yours.” ”

Nichols is survived by her son, Kyle Johnson.

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