West News Wire: As communications officer Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series, Nichelle Nichols broke through boundaries for Black women in Hollywood. She passed away at the age of 89.
Nichols died on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico, according to her son Kyle Johnson.
“Last night, my mother Nichelle Nichols passed away due to natural causes. However, her light will endure for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by, much like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, Johnson wrote on her official Facebook page on Sunday. She led a good life that should serve as an example for everyone.
Her role in the 1966-69 series earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor with the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. It also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited Black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
Shatner tweeted Sunday: “I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Nichelle. She was a beautiful woman & played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world.”
George Takei, who shared the bridge of the USS Enterprise with her as Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series, called her trailblazing and incomparable. “For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend,” he tweeted.
Nichols’ impact was felt far beyond her immediate co-stars, and many others in the “Star Trek” world also tweeted their condolences.
Celia Rose Gooding, who currently plays Uhura in “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” tweeted that Nichols “made room for so many of us. She was the reminder that not only can we reach the stars, but our influence is essential to their survival. Forget shaking the table, she built it.”
“Star Trek: Voyager” alum Kate Mulgrew tweeted, “Nichelle Nichols was The First. She was a trailblazer who navigated a very challenging trail with grit, grace, and a gorgeous fire we are not likely to see again.”
Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs starting in 1979 with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and frequented “Star Trek” fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.