Television

Star Trek Actors From Every Generation Pay Tribute to Uhura Actress Nichelle Nichols, Dead at 89

In the foreground, a white-haired Nichelle Nichols holds a statuette and raises her hand in a Vulcan salute. In the background, a young Nichelle Nichols in costume as Lieutenant Uhura.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Mike Coppola/Getty Images and Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images. 

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series and in subsequent movies, has died at age 89, her son announced on Sunday. The actress and singer became famous for her role as the starship Enterprise’s communications officer beginning in 1966. Though Nichols was dissatisfied with the size of her part and planned to depart Star Trek for musical theater, she remained on the show at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who urged her to consider the importance of a Black woman in such a visible position. She and co-star William Shatner exchanged one of television’s first interracial kisses.

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Nichols and Uhura went on to inspire future generations of actors—and astronauts. Whoopi Goldberg, who starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1980s and ‘90s, said on The View on Monday that Nichols was “the first Black person I’d ever seen who made it to the future.” Nichols worked with NASA to recruit women and people of color for the agency after becoming a vocal critic of its lack of diversity in the 1970s, which is the subject of the recent documentary Woman in Motion.

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Among those who took to Twitter to pay their respects to Nichols are her Original Series co-stars Shatner and George Takei; astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, who also guest starred on an episode of The Next Generation; and Celia Rose Gooding, who plays a younger version of Nichols’ character on the prequel series Strange New Worlds. We’ve rounded up their tweets and many more, below.

Star Trek: The Original Series

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Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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Star Trek: Voyager

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Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: Discovery

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Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Lower Decks

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

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Star Trek: Prodigy

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