Facts about Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols Biography
Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek television series for only three seasons, but it made her internationally famous for the rest of her life. During the run of the show Nichols was one of the few Black women to appear on American TV at all.
She began her entertainment career in her late teens, singing and dancing on Chicago and New York stages and even touring briefly with Duke Ellington’s band.
By 1964 Nichols was in Los Angeles and making her TV debut in an episode of The Lieutenant (1963-64), a show created by Gene Roddenberry, who two years later created Star Trek.
The episode Nichols appeared in never aired because of a perceived sensitivity to race issues, but Roddenberry put her back on TV as one of the main characters of Star Trek, in a part originally written as a male character.
Nichols says she wanted to leave the show after the first season because her character did little more than say the line, “Hailing frequencies open, Captain.” But it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who talked her into continuing in the role, explaining how important it was for all Americans to see a Black woman in a fictionalized future.
After the series ended, Nichols life as a member of Star Trek lasted until her death, as she toured regularly to see fans.
In the late 1970s Nichols worked with NASA in a successful effort to broaden the application pool for the space program. Nichols spoke at college campuses across the United States in an effort to convince women and minorites that they could, in fact, be astronauts.
In 1994 Nichelle Nichols published Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories… In 2021 a documentary was released about her work with NASA, Woman In Motion.