Pioneer Nichelle Nichols of ‘Star Trek’ fame dies at 89

Nichols became instantly iconic as one of the few African American women on prime time network television in the 1960s
Nichelle Nichols from the original “Star Trek” series in the 1970s (Image source: YouTube/CNN)

Nichelle Nichols, the pioneering actress who soared to international fame — and into urbanites’ hearts — during the 1960s and 70s on the original “Star Trek” series, has died. She was 89.

Nichols was a paragon of beauty, grace and eloquence in the role of Uhuru that Black Americans could easily embrace and champion during the blockbuster sci-fi series that became iconic.

Nichols’ death was confirmed on Sunday, July 31, 2022, by her son, Kyle Johnson, on Nichols’ website. Johnson explained that his mother died of natural causes.

“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,” Johnson said in a statement on the website. 

Johnson added that Nichols’ life was “well-lived and as such a model for” everyone. He implores the public to give the family privacy during their time of bereavement. 

Nichols has been immortalized because she was one the first Black female leads on major network television. Rod Roddenberry, executive producer of the current iterations of “Star Trek” and son of the original show’s creator Gene Roddenberry mourned the loss. 

“It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of the legendary icon Nichelle Nichols,” Roddenberry said on Twitter. “No words.”

Much like Nichols’ spirit, which continues to burn like an indelible flame, her character and the series continue to impact modern generations of fans. Actress Zoe Saldana picked up the baton from Nichols with the role of Uhura in 2009’s Star Trek. And in 2022, Celia Rose Gooding debuted as Uhura in the spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is running on Paramount+. 

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