On MLK Day Nichelle Nichols Retells The Story Of How Martin Luther King Kept Uhura On Star Trek

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, which was chosen for the premiere screening of a new indie film "The Guest at Central Park West", which deals with racial themes. Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols was on hand and while at the premiere she told her famous story about meeting Dr. King and how he convinced her to stay with Star Trek. We have photos from the event plus excerpts of a new interview.



Nichelle on MLK day
On Monday evening on January 18th 2010 prior to the screening of "The Guest At The Central Park West" at The Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, CA. Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols shared her story of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged her to stay on the show after she had decided to leave the program after one season. The evening benefited the MMPA ( Multicultural Motion Picture Association ) Educational Scholarship Program

Here are photos

Nichelle Nichols attends “The Guest At The Central Park West” Los Angeles premiere at Writer’s Guild Theater on January 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Photos by Albert L. Ortega (available at PR Photos)


More tellings of the MLK story
The story of MLK and Star Trek is also detailed in a new interview with Nichelle at PlanetWaves, here is an excerpt:

I told him I would be leaving the show, because; and that was as far as he let me go, and he said, “STOP! You cannot! You cannot leave this show! Do you not understand what you are doing?! You are the first non-stereotypical role in television! Of intelligence, and of a woman and a woman of color?! That you are playing a role that is not about your color! That this role could be played by anyone? This is not a black role. This is not a female role! A blue eyed blond or a pointed ear green person could take this role!” And I am looking at him and looking at him and buzzing, and he said, “Nichelle, for the first time, not only our little children and people can look on and see themselves, but people who don’t look like us, people who don’t look like us, from all over the world, for the first time, the first time on television, they can see us, as we should be!

 [go to planetwaves.ne for the full story]

story on video
Nichelle has told the story often. Here is video of her at DragonCon 2007 talking about Star Trek and Dr. Martin Luther King (skip to the 5:00 mark to get to the story).

story continues below

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She is a lovely human being. Tops my list of “fantasy dinner guests”.

“Retells” is right.

She is such a classy lady. Nichols ages so gracefully, no?

She is such a huge inspiration to me. And not to mention that I am infinitely jealous that she got to meet MLK! Wow. What an honour! And… I’m glad she stayed with the cast, anyways. ;)

Oh, attention person who wrote this (or whatever): You misspelled her last name in the title. You spelled it with two “L”s.

What amazes me is how the story stays essentially the same from when I first heard it – it doesn’t grow, doesn’t change. It obviously made a very deep impression in her mind.

“It obviously made a very deep impression in her mind.”

Those times should have made an impression on anyone. She was living in during times of continuing strife for people of color. It always impressed me, the vision that Roddenbery had, that we’d overcome those struggles and we’d all be equals…one day.

I am glad she didn’t leave the show. And, sci-fi typecasting being what it is, I am sure she doesn’t mind that ST helped pay the bills all these years.

She is, and was, beautiful.

#5: “She is, and was, beautiful.”

And I would add, always will be.

That is just amazing.

Nichelle is an amazing woman, anyone interested should read Beyond Uhura, her autobiography. Very interesting heritage, life & career. She is the best!

She is one of the best, she is one who I wish to see at all the Vegas Cons because I want to say so much to her in the brief time you get during a photo op or autograph. She did come around during one of the Captains Chair dinner events, she spoke to every one like they were friends for years. That is the type of wonderful person she is, each fan is her personal friend and she lets you know it.

I met her in 1976 at the Star Trek Convention in Boston Mass. She was genuine, and even sang a song that evening.

What’s with this 33% for StarTrek sequel in 3D? Are you insane? I’d rather have black&white—*and* 50% lens flares! 3D geek shize. Trek should remain a film franchise and not become a circus show.

But I love Nichols.

I think it would be nice to have the 3d option in the next movie, but I honestly don’t care that much. Star Trek isn’t primarily driven by special effects, so as long as it has a solid story and overall production I’m happy. As for Nichelle, well Uhura I thought deserved more time in TOS. She had a grace and class that nobody else did, and of course even though she didnt have a huge roll I think its safe to say it gave hope to lots of kids growing up on Star Trek. I hate to say it but I think the new Uhura lacks the grace and class that Nichelle brought.

Had the pleasure of saying hello to her once. A class act indeed. Hapy MLK Day, Nichelle and all.

I read somewhere that in ST6 she was supposed to say some line which could have been construed as bigotry against Klingons and she would not say it. That also maintained the integrity of Uhura’s character.

I wanted to quit my job at Home Depot but Socrates talked me out of it.

5 bucks says that’s a wig.

I never tire of hearing that story. It really is awesome.

And Nichelle is awesome.

@ 16 – Tacky comment, ma’am.

The next Trek movie has to be in 3D.

Maybe the Enterprise can visit Pandorra: Kirk get’s it on with a Zoe Saldana’s character (can’t remember the name sorry), that way she’d have to kiss Kirk and Spock!! LOL

Nichelle is a real class act.
After reading the Cinefex article on Avatar, two things are certain:
1) Cameron DOES deserve all the Best Director awards he gets.
And- 2) 3D is the future of movies- Trek included.

It’s a story worth retelling, and re-listening to. Nichelle is amazing.

@20: Working his way through the visible spectrum, so to speak? James you naughty fellow! ;)

@16… Extremely tacky!!!

#15 i wanted to quit my job- but my mortgage payments stopped me.

This story is a bit old now though isn’t it. Still, it obviously means a lot to Nichelle so good for her,

Nichelle is a true TV icon and a class act. I would like to see her in the new Star Trek!

@ 1 (rogue_alice)

HA !

She’s definitely on my “fantasy dinner guests” too !

Great advice from MLK.

You have to visualize something for it to then become reality and who knows how deep the impact that her role in Star Trek has had.

17. Gotta disagree.

I love Nichelle, but we know the story. It is practically the only thing she talks about when she’s interviewed. There are Aboriginal peoples in Australia that know that story by now.

She can keep telling that story until the cows come home. I love that story, that’s one guy I would love to watch Star Trek with.

It’s a story that shows how influential Original ST actually was and still is, and what impact it had on people and society in general. As far as I’m concerned, Nichols can tell that story until Spock renounces logic.

There’s a practical reason why she keeps on telling the story too. Some people think the Civil Rights Act was the end of history, well, we haven’t run out of history quite yet. Black South Africans voted for the first time – inside of their own country – in 1994. Australia only formally apologized for mistreating its indigenous population in 2007. Last week, an NBC poll confirmed that a majority of African Americans believe that race relations have not improved since November 2008.

Racism isn’t a war.

One cannot simply declare victory and go home.

These are all challenges to us to confront the reality that the extraordinary vision of Gene Roddenberry, Martin Luther King, and those other champions of equality have not been fulfilled. The struggle continues, and I suspect that as long as Nichelle has the strength to use her story as a way to bring people together, she will continue to do so. She is a very classy lady indeed. And I never grow tired of hearing her talk about her experiences on Star Trek, even if I already know the ending.

Well said JohnWA :)

I do love this story. I only first heard it in what? 1996? But it left an impression in my mind when I was younger of just how much importance, or how much of an impact the role had.

I ‘ve had dinner with her and let me tell you , Nichelle is one of the most amazing , classy, down-to -earth women i’ve have the honor of knowing. She has alot of insight on life. I never grow tried of hearing her MLK story.

One of the best stories ever, and I never stop looking forward to hearing it again.

Yes, if you watch the featurette on the dvd/bluray of STVI, they did indeed give Uhura lines that were distastful for a black person to say, and she declined/refused to say them for personal and character objections. Those lines were then given to the admiral @ S.F……forget the actor’s name…I believe it was Cartwright–character’s name?
A black actor, that also found the words fowl, and had to do/film them in segments to get through them, becase they were so offensive.
Nicholas Meyer describes this in detail on the dvd extra.

Let her tell the story as much as she wants – it’s important.

ST VI was a turning point in how trek dealt with stories about predjudice. Throughtout TOS, the enterprise crew was the one who had gotten past racism. I love Uhura’s lines to Lincoln to that effect (stupid episode but some good dialog none the less).

In VI, the decision was made — for the first time — to have the crew be somewhat blinded by bigotry, though they realize their mistake by the end of the movie. I think it was a needed step-forward in a time where society was realizing that racism would take a lot longer to get past than we had all hoped. However, it wasn’t a great fit for the TOS crew and I think it was an astute bit of role-ownership for Nichols to understand that. In many ways, ST:VI is a lot more in-line with DS9’s version of the universe than with TOS. Not saying that’s better or worse, just a different approach to dealing with large issues.


Star trek fans, help push JJ Arbrams and the writers to make a cameo space for nichelle. She is the only one of the original crew who has not had a cameo in one way or another on a future star trek…she deserves it!!

Shatner– Generations movie
Nimoy— Latest star trek
Kelly– Next generation episode 1
Doohan– Generations movie & Next generation “relics”
Takei—- Voyager “flashback”
Koeing— Generations movie

Nichols— Nothing!!!!

lets start a campaign that shows how much we love and care about Nichelle and that we want all the original cast to be honoured!!!

JohnWA, I think your post describes exactly why it is such a tragedy that Dr. King was killed when he was and never allowed to live a full life.

Since his death, charlatans like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have perveted Dr. King’s dream of colorblindness into a sense of entitlement and political enslavement that speak of empowering the minority out of one side of their mouths but their policies actually end up leading to a multigenerational decay of those minority communities.

The lucky ones to get out and “prosper” (to take a word from Spock’s vocabulary) have been the ones to ingore the post MLK bs and listen to the words of the Dr.’s dream and work themselves out of the system and truly let the world judge them based “on the content of their character” and their own personal accomplishments.

It is so kool that Dr. King was a Trek Fan. That is a great true Story and I for one am realy glad she stayed. I mean People like Whopi Goldberg even said that she was an inspirition. Thank you Nichele for being in Trek.

#31 – yes indeedy. It’s too bad the new film couldn’t have included a little bit of that philosophy in the development of the re-booted characters. If anything, this film took a big step back to the 60s, rather than pushing the envelope of our racial and gender expectations forward.


Actually, it was the ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ line, and they reassigned it to Chekov. Brock Peters (who played Cartwright) had the line about the Klingons being ‘alien trash’, which he did object to but ultimately delivered anyway.

Personally, I think Uhura delivering the line would have had greater impact, and I understand what Meyer was going for, but I also understand why she wouldn’t say it.


‘Balance of Terror’ featured pretty blatant racism, so the subject wasn’t necessarily anything new for the TOS crew.

The story I lve hearing because it shows how important her role was in Star Trek, how important the ideals of Trek is.

What I love about Star Trek is hope for the future that depsite all the crap we go through today, war, poverty, racism and greed which are ugly is that in a few centuries it will all be gone and we will all be working together, We embrace our differences and that each one of us is equal.

The human condition plus the strong characters are what is important in Star Trek.

I might not like the new movie as much as others on this site but I can accept it for what it is. I don’t spread hate, even though I rant about my gripes a little too often. But I hope the new fans watch the other Treks and see this ideal. See the strengths of Star Trek and not see it as some Star Wars type action feast.

#42 They wanted Uhura to say, “But would you want your daughter to marry one?” in reference to Klingons, according to more than one source.


It’s probably to cover up alopecia, and almost all of us get it as we age. Ms. Nichols is beautiful and would be beautiful bald, but she chose to wear that very flattering wig, along with that beautiful gown. Or she could have been having a bad hair day. Or she just wanted that wig. She is a fabulous person and chose to look fabulous.

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