Nichelle Nichols, Trailblazing ‘Star Trek’ Icon, Dies At 89

Nichelle Nichols, who made history playing Lieutenant Uhura on “Star Trek,” has passed away. She was 89.

Nichols died Saturday night of natural causes, her son, Kyle Johnson, announced on her official Facebook page.

“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” he shared. “Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. 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.”

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 19: Nichelle Nichols accepts an Inkpot Award onstage at the “From The Bridge” Panel during Comic-Con International 2018 at San Diego Convention Center on July 19, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Johnson went on to note that his mom had a life “well lived and as such a model for us all.”

“I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected,” Johnson concluded.

Nichols was one of the first Black women ever to play a leading role on a television series when she was cast as Lieutenant Uhura on “Star Trek” in 1966.

Promotional portrait of American actor Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura for the television show, ‘Star Trek,’ c. 1968. (Photo by Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images)

After the show’s first season wrapped, Nichols planned to leave the sci-fi drama to pursue roles on Broadway, but was urged not to by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“‘You cannot, you cannot…for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people who can sing dance, and can go to space, who are professors, lawyers … If you leave, that door can be closed because your role is not a black role, and is not a female role, he can fill it with anybody even an alien,'” Nichols recalled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. telling her during an interview with the Television Academy.

Nichols stayed for all three seasons of the original “Star Trek,” and played Uhura again on “Star Trek: The Animated Series” in 1973 and 1974. The late actress also starred alongside the rest of her “Star Trek” co-stars in six movies.

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