The tragic death of Star Trek alum Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lt. Uhura, in the original “Star Trek” series, died July 30 at the age of 89, Variety reported. Nichols leaves behind one child, son Kyle Johnson, whom she shared with her first husband, the late dancer Foster Johnson, a man she married and divorced in 1951. She was then married to Duke Mondy from 1968 to 1972. She had not remarried at the time of her death.

Gilbert Bell, Nichols talent manager, confirmed the news. Nichols had been dealing with health issues in recent years, including suffering a stroke in 2015, according to the BBC. TMZ previously reported in 2018 that she had also been diagnosed with “moderately progressive dementia.”

When news of Nichols’ death broke, her fans looked back at both her life and her legacy. Read on as we do the same.

Nichelle Nichols changed television and real space exploration

Most people probably recognize Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura, one of the most iconic characters to ever appear on television. It was also a role the actor almost gave up early on. Nichols ended up being replaced by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King persuaded to stay. “[Dr. King] said: ‘…don’t you see something [‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry] is doing? This is the future,'” Nichols told StarTrek.com. “‘He established us as how we should be seen… When we see you, we see ourselves, and we see ourselves as intelligent, beautiful and proud.’ He continued by saying that despite all the hardships and horrors that the black community has faced, “we all know that because we live in the 23rd century, they cannot destroy us.”

Though Nichols inspired countless people during her time on Star Trek, she also helped transform the real world of space exploration by collaborating with NASA. When asked by NASA to help recruit recruits in 1977, Nichols said, per Wired, “I’m going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don’t choose one… everyone is there newspapers across the country will hear about it.” She was certainly right; according to USA Today, over 1,600 women and 1,000 people of color applied in four months. Among them were Dr. Sally Ride and Guion Stewart Bluford Jr., both notable firsts like Nichols himself.

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Nichelle Nichols may be gone, but that legacy lives on forever.