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Nichelle Nichols was an American actress, voice artist and singer, best known for her role as Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series from 1966 to 1969, a groundbreaking role that saw her become one of the first Black women to be featured in a major television series, making her a role model and an inspiration for many.
Nichols also co-starred in six Star Trek films and voiced the character of Uhura in Star Trek: The Animated Series, along with numerous other acting and voice acting roles. Along with George Takei, William Shatner and Walter Koenig she was one of the last surviving cast members of the original series.
Role as Uhura
Nichols first met Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1963 after being cast in an episode of his first television series, The Lieutenant. Three years later, she began starring as Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series.
Towards the end of the show's first season, Nichols was feeling frustrated with the direction of Uhura's character,[note 1] and wanted to take up a role on Broadway. She went so far as to hand her resignation letter to Roddenberry, who failed to convince her to stay.
However, that weekend at a NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) banquet, Nichols was told that her "biggest fan" wanted to meet her - that fan was Dr. Martin Luther King. She later recalled,
And then this man says: "Yes, Ms. Nichols - I am that fan. I am your greatest fan. And my family are your greatest fans. As a matter of fact, this is the only show on television that my wife, Coretta, and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch."
I said, "Well, I'm going to leave Star Trek, because I ha-" - going to say, 'Have an offer, to star in-' - I never got that far. He said, "You cannot. You cannot. [...] For the first time, on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day. As intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, and - but who can go into space. Who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors - who are, and yet you don't see it on television until now."... I just stood there, realising every word that he was saying was the truth.
Remarks on Star Trek
At Star Trek Chicago in 1975, Nichols spoke informally to the assembled fans:
I think you all know my attitude about STAR TREK people -- those of you who really dug the meaning about [what] the great bird of the galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, intended when he gave us the philosophy and the life of STAR TREK. To me, it means that at a time of great apathy, at a time of discouragement about our future, an attitude of "who the hell cares?", a time when young people were dropping out of society for one reason or an other, there were many people feeling very, very different. I don't mean differently from [the dropouts] but who were feeling in a way different from society. What STAR TREK proposed to many of us who felt "different" to one degree or another was that life forms of any denomination, of any means, of any form, must respect other life forms - not in spite of our differences, whatever those differences are, but because of those differences; because your difference adds to me, to my being, to my validity, and my difference adds to the validity of your life. What STAR TREK really says that in the 20th Century we didn't push the button and go "boom"--we somehow transcended that annihilation - bent or self-destructive corridor, and we turned around and we said "We shall overcome that BS", and we said "We will make it into the future, and go forward with respect and expectations and non-aggression!" That's what STAR TREK means to me; that's what life means to me.
People, daily I think, are discovering what we [STAR TREK fans] mean -- that we're not just a fad, we're not just a bunch of freaks that freaked off behind a groovy, crazy, freaky show - we're "about" life; we're about the essence of life; we're about reality; we're about people; we're about living; we're about love; we're about the future, we're about God, if you will, whatever that means to you; we're about one-ness. I think we all know what we're about, and I thank whatever the great power of the Universe is that more and more people are starting to know what we're about. We're about hope based on reality; not meaningless hope, not unrealistic hope, but realistic hope that has validity, that has substance, that has a future. And so, we can go forward with our posterity, with faith, with hope, and with knowing that we're going to be here, not only 200 years from today, but 200 years from then, and 200 years from then.
So don't let your dreams go to waste; don't let your dreams be diffused by other people who say "Oh, you're crazy." Whatever your dreams are, those are God-given; those are Universal-given imaginations--if you want to do it, you'll do it. And if you fell different, then just look in the mirror and respect yourself --and that difference is God given; and because you're different, you are God blessed. I'm sure that if Uhura were here, hailing frequencies and opening all channels, she would feel the same way. So, as you know her through me, know that I mean this be cause this is the meaning of STAR TREK, because STAR TREK lives, now, and it lives since time began, and it lives into infinity.STAR TREK LIVES! 
Relationship with Fandom
Guest of Honour
- ^ A Los Angeles Times article says that she was "Frustrated with the lack of depth in her role", while a Guardian article says she "felt her role was being diminished".
- ^ Inside the heartbreaking conservatorship battle of a ‘Star Trek’ legend, Makeda Easter, Los Angeles Times. Published August 15, 2021 (Accessed August 19, 2021).
- ^ Nichelle Nichols on how Dr. MLK, Jr. dissuaded her from quitting Star Trek - EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG, Youtube. 2013. (Accessed August 20, 2021).
- ^ as quoted in Stardate #10