Brow Beat

Drunk History Celebrates Nichelle Nichols for Breaking Barriers on Star Trek and in Actual Space

Nichelle Nichols was a perfect choice for Drunk History’s “Game Changers” episode, because it’s hard to think of a bigger game changer than the woman who “literally integrated space,” as an intoxicated Ashley Nicole Black explained on Tuesday night. Black wasn’t just talking about Nichols’ role as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek in the 1960s, a major breakthrough for black female representation onscreen, or the time she and William Shatner made television history with its first interracial kiss. Black was also referring to Nichols’ work with NASA to diversify the space program after Star Trek ended, recruiting the likes of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford.


The episode touched on many of Nichols’ accomplishments, but the best part was probably the reenactment of Nichols (played by Raven-Symoné) meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. (played by Jaleel White), who convinced her to stay on Star Trek when she was considering leaving the show. Here’s how it went down, according to Black’s inebriated telling:


Martin Luther King loved Star Trek and he’s like, “You are the only black woman on television who doesn’t play a servant. You’re the only person out there providing hope to black people there’s a future where maybe they won’t be seen as less than and they’ll be seen as equals.”

And she’s like, “Wow, that’s great, except for, I’m leaving. I quit Star Trek this week. I’m so sorry.”

And he’s like, “No, you can’t quit. Do you realize that you’re the first black women who—black woman.” He wasn’t drunk when he said it. I was drunk, but Martin Luther King was like, “If you leave, this one image that children have of a black woman as an equal will just disappear from television.”

And she’s like, “Well, that’s a lot, that’s like a lot—that’s a lot on my shoulders. Can you chill?”

And he’s like, “No, I’m Martin Luther King. I have no chill.”

“I’m Martin Luther King, I have no chill” may not be quite as inspiring as “I have a dream,” but you know what? It’s still a very moving story, even when the teller is completely plastered.