KMJQ Featured Video
2021 Los Angeles Comic Con

Source: Albert L. Ortega / Getty

Nichelle Nichols, one of the first Black actresses with a major television role with her portrayal of Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, has died at the age of 89.

As reported by journalist Yashar Ali on Twitter, Nichols’ son, Kyle Johnson, confirmed her death of natural causes on Saturday, July 30:

“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years. Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration. Hers was a life well lived and, as such, a model for us all.”

Nichols was a trailblazer with her role on Star Trek. Interestingly enough, Nichols almost quit after the first year, to pursue a Broadway career. It took a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to change her mind.

“You cannot and you must not,” Nichols recalls him saying. “Don’t you realize how important your presence, your character is? … Don’t you see? This is not a Black role, and this is not a female role. You have the first non-stereotypical role on television, male or female. You have broken ground.

“… For the first time,” he continued, “the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people — as we should be.”

Nichols would stay, starring as Lt. Uhura for all 70 episodes of the original Star Trek, as well as six featured films. Following the show’s cancellation, Nichols would become involved with NASA, as a recruiter focused on bringing more women and POCs into the space program. Among those who were recruited are Dr. Sally Ride, the first female astronaut, and US Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first Black astronaut. Nichols’ work with NASA is chronicled in the 2021 documentary, Woman in Motion.

Other acting credits include roles in HeroesFuturamaSnow Dogs, Are We There Yet?, and various other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Nichols is survived by her son, who also served as her caregiver. A private service will be held for family and close friends.

Nichelle Nichols, “Star Trek” Icon and Advocate for Diversity in Space, Dies at 89  was originally published on