A Real Life Star Trek Hero Nichelle Nichols passes away

The following is an encore post to someone who deserves an encore – Nichelle Nichols – who passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

After the first season of the original “Star Trek” television series, African-American actress Nichelle Nichols was speaking with a prominent public figure about her role as Lt. Uhura. The public figure noted “Star Trek” was the only show he watched regularly with his children. Nichols told the man she was leaving the show, but he encouraged her to reconsider, which she did. He said you are a role model showing Blacks and Whites that there is a place for women of color in key roles in the future .His name was Martin Luther King.

She took that inspiration seriously and did far more than I ever knew until a recent documentary enlightened me. The Scyfy network has written an important piece called “NICHELLE NICHOLS’ NASA ‘WOMAN IN MOTION’ DOC BOLDLY BLASTING OFF FOR ‘BLACK HISTORY MONTH.’” Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the full article below.

“A new documentary is boldly tackling one of actress Nichelle Nichols‘ greatest achievements. In addition to playing the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek TV show, Nichols used her pop culture influence as a fictional space-farer to help pioneer a NASA recruitment program in the 1970s and ’80s that hired the first astronauts who were women and persons of color.

Directed by Todd Thompson (The Highwaymen), the documentary features exclusive interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Vivica A. Fox, Walter Koenig, Rod Roddenberry, Michael Dorn, Guy Bluford, Charles Bolden, Ivor Dawson, Frederik Gregory, Benjamin Crump, and, of course, Nichols herself.

The movie’s title refers to the company Nichols founded (Women in Motion, Inc.) that brought over 8,000 African American, Asian, and Latino women to NASA. Thanks to the actress’ work, the agency became one of the most diverse institutions of the U.S. federal government.

‘We are thrilled that Woman in Motion will be getting its U.S. premiere and launching the Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series next month! This is a great American story with incredible global impact,” Thompson said in a statement. “Nichelle Nichols helped create the brighter future we are living in today by proclaiming that space exploration is for everyone. It’s a simple but very strong statement that opens doors and allows all humankind to boldly go!’   

‘We are proud to bring pioneer and role model Nichelle Nichols’ inspiring story in cinemas across the nation,” added Fathom CEO Ray Nutt. “It is an honor to have Woman in Motion as the debut film in the inaugural Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series.”‘

To see Nichols speak of her efforts later in life is a treat. She is a very dignified person and understands the importance of these earlier efforts. A key comment was during a speech she made in the 1970s to a large group of NASA people. She looked out in the audience at all of the white men and observed “Where are my people?” The NASA leader heard her and asked for her help. She said she would do so, but did not want to be a figure head. She wanted to help make a difference. And, she did. She did her part to help NASA “boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.”

Nichelle Nichols/NASA ‘Woman in Motion’ documentary boldly blasting off (syfy.com)

18 thoughts on “A Real Life Star Trek Hero Nichelle Nichols passes away

  1. A worthy tribute Keith. She leaves a great legacy and will be missed.
    I (along with countless other young British males) had a crush on her when Star Trek arrived in the UK.
    She could be quite the accomplished comic turn; as in the underrated ‘Snow Dogs’

  2. I was planning to write a post about Nichelle Nichols, but when I read yours, it is so beautifully done that I decided to share yours instead! Ms. Nichols did indeed “boldly go where no [woman] has gone before”, especially a woman of colour! Thank you for this excellent tribute and the link to the article!

      • Keith … you have done me a tremendous favour!!! Curiosity piqued, I went in search of that documentary, found it on Amazon at a very reasonable price, and bought it for $5.99! I started watching, just intending to watch the first few minutes for tonight, but I was so hooked that I kept on watching for nearly half the show! I will finish it tomorrow, for I knew I needed to finish responding to comments, load the dishwasher, and get my music post for morning. She is … AMAZING! Thank you so much for mentioning this documentary to me … it brought a huge smile to my face, and I’ve still got half of it to watch! 😊

      • Thanks Jill. I think I had the same reaction as you did. It is like finding out an old friend has done wonderful things and had no idea. Keith

  3. Wow, Keith. There have been so many women (or people in general) who stepped in for human rights. I did not know this all about Nichelle Nichols. Another great woman and pioneer. May she rest in peace.

  4. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Yesterday, I read with sadness of the death of Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the long-running Star Trek series. But she was so much more than just an actress. She was instrumental in helping break the colour barrier, especially for women, not only in the entertainment field, but also within the ranks of NASA! There is much I did not know about Ms. Nichols, but our friend Keith has written an excellent tribute to her and I see no reason for me to reinvent the wheel! Thank you, Keith!

  5. Note to Readers: One of the neat things about “Star Trek” is it was much more than a science-fiction show. Gene Roddenberry made sure the cast was multi-racial and multinational. It had a more hopeful view of what we humans could be. I think that is why it appealed to so many and why MLK suggested Nichelle Nichols remain on the show.

    To be honest, we could use a lot more of that view and less of this “fear of the other” being played up by zero-sum oriented politicians where their win has to be at the expense of the other’s loss. That is a highly unproductive way to govern.

  6. Me too – I started watching Star Trek in high school (junior?) and, shame on me,I noticed Nichelle Nichols but at age 16 didn’t pay a lot of attention except that she was really, really pretty. I had wanted to become an astronaut in grade school, but that passed. She would have been a very cool role model just for women being able to do that sort of thing outside of the children’s science fiction books I devoured.

    Her passing, though, definitely caught my attention. I thank you for the post and I may reblog myself.

    • Thanks Becky. She was indeed a role model and quite lovely. Becky the astronaut is a good aspiration. I wanted to be a baseball star, so your dream was more inspired. Keith

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