Nichelle Nichols, best known as the communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura of the starship Enterprise, died July 30. She was 89. Her groundbreaking performances in Star Trek, corresponding with the Civil Rights movement in the United States, helped set the first standard for diversity and inclusion in mainstream screen entertainment.
As Uhura, Nichols was a core presence during Star Trek’s original run on NBC from 1966 to 1969. To that point, Black actresses were largely given servile or ancillary roles in television and theater. But Nichols, radiating professionalism and 1960s mod-style sex appeal from her chair on the Enterprise’s bridge, opened a channel to Hollywood for stars like Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier.
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