Nichelle Nichols Talks Star Trek, MLK and Pioneers of TV

Today is Martin Luther King Day and Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s original Uhura, has been doing a round of media interviews to talk about her famous interactions with Dr. King, and to promote tomorrow nights airing of Pioneers of Television on PBS. We have compiled video, audio and photos of Nichols’ recent appearances below.


Nichols on Star Trek, MLK and Pioneers of Television

On Tuesday the Nichelle Nichols will appear in the PBS series Pioneers of Television in an an episode about science fiction [see previous article]. Nichols has been doing the rounds of media to promote the episode, and also to talk about Martin Luther King (just in time for Martin Luther King day).

Here is an interview she did last Thursday with MyFoxLA.


This morning Nichelle Nichols was a guest today on The View on ABC, both to promote Pioneers of Television, and in honor of Martin King. Nichelle discussed being cast in Star Trek and meeting Dr. King back in the 1960s. 

CLICK TO SEE VIDEO [Nichols appears in final segment]

Nichols also appeared today on the NPR radio show Tell Me More, going into more detail about her interactions with Martin Luther King. 

And in one more interview with the Wall Street Journal, Nichols talks more about her career and MLK, and  about the creation of the character of Uhura, here is an excerpt:

I understand that the Uhura character didn’t even exist before you were hired.

I walked in to the interview with this magnificent treatise on Africa by [Robert] Ruark called Uhuru, which is Swahili for Freedom. Gene said he really liked the name of that book and wanted to use the title as a first name. I said, why don’t you do an alliteration of the name Uhuru and soften the N and make it Uhura? He said you are Uhura and that belongs to you.

How much input did you have in creating Uhura?

I created my background, where she came from, my parents. They were ambassadors and one was a scientist, so I had this to live up to as well as the expectations of Spock. I made him Uhura’s mentor.

Finally last night Nichelle appeared at a Pioneer Women of Television event at the 92nd St. Y in New York, along with her fellow honorees Angie Dickinson, Linda Evans, and Stefanie Powers. Here are some red carpet photos from the event:

Actors Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Stefanie Powers and Linda Evans attend the Pioneers of Television photocall at the 92nd Street Y on January 16, 2011 in New York City

Nichelle Nichols at the Pioneers of Television photocall at the 92nd Street Y on January 16, 2011 in New York City

Angie Dickinson and Nichelle Nichols at the Pioneers of Television photocall at the 92nd Street Y on January 16, 2011 in New York City

Nichelle Nichols at the Pioneers of Television photocall at the 92nd Street Y on January 16, 2011 in New York City

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lovely pictures here of all. Especially Angie Dickinson of Police Woman.

BTW ‘The View’ clip doesnt work for people in the United Kingdom which is a shame.

Beautiful women all.
The classics.

I seriously loved all these women. They all look great still.

Angie Dickinson has a Trek crossover in more ways than one. There’s the “Big Bad Mama” movie she did with Shatner and then there’s one of the oddest movies I’ve ever seen…a Gene Rodenberry production she did with Rock Hudson and Roddy McDowall called “Pretty Maids All In a Row”. Made about 1969 where she plays a groooovy, sexually free, and super hot substitute teacher. James Doohan had a role as a police detective and Barton Larue was kind of recycled as a TV announcer. Weird movie. Lotta fun though. Stayed up till 4:00 in the morning watching it few years ago.

Classy Lady!

Those earrings Nichelle is wearing look a bit heavy on the ears.

Angie and Nichelle are my two favorite women in that photo and they’re hugging.


I watched an episode of the view….for Nichelle.

she’s still going on and on with that story.

still the wonderful lady with class. You look great. and the company around you absolutely stunning. it is great to see how time has been good to these wonderful ladies, all my hopes and God keep you all

Folks this woman can still be Uhura…paramount bring back what’s left of the original cast for something, it sure would be nice to see.

She is one classy Lady. She is and will always be Uhurah to all of us Trek Geeks.

“Folks this woman can still be Uhura…paramount bring back what’s left of the original cast for something, it sure would be nice to see.” (#11 Puttrekbackontvplease )

Leaving aside for a moment any doubts about the true feasibility of such an approach, in my heart of hearts, I certainly do feel the exact same way.

Dammit Barbra Walters… let her talk!!!!

Great links!!!

Great lady. nuf sed

If I’d had mlk tell me anything, or even ask ‘can you break a $20’ — i’d still be talking about it too. Later treks didn’t do much with black female characters, except maybe Lily in fc — but she was written more as zc’s assistant, forgotten by history, than a player in the story herself. Did they ever have a black woman Admiral in TNG and beyond? They were mostly old white guys, which was disappointing.


“Later treks didn’t do much with black female characters, except maybe Lily in fc — but she was written more as zc’s assistant, forgotten by history, than a player in the story herself. ”

So true! Talk about some major FAIL!!!

Nichelle looks great. The story of her meeting with MLK never gets old to me. She seems like such a great person. Wish they would’ve brought her back for something on Trek years ago. Still not too late.

Nichelle is wonderful!I love her mlk story–and whoopis uhura story too–i got to say a few brief words to nichelle in vegas at the 40th con–when she posed with sulu n chekov for a photo op with us–earlier all three had been together on stage n some guy in the audience yelled that he disagreed with her political statements she made–she left the stage to rejoin chekov n sulu five min later where they sang one of the patriotic songs–well i just tapped her on her shoulder before they took our pix n told her we respected her political views n that we luv her-she graciously said thank u n looked really touched–what a great lady–with majels passing nichelle is now the first lady of trek-

Angeline Dickinson, I’m so happy to see you! You look fantastic!

I wanna hug all of them and give them chocolate boxes!

To Number 14:
Yes, I also felt annoyed that Nichelle Nichols kept being cut off as she was talking about her background on The View. However, did you notice how she handled it? Pure class and a real pro. She was gracious and went on in the direction she felt Barbara Walters wanted with no sign of anger. She handled The View cast with charm and intelligence. With The View’s reputation and history of group interviews of a guest, talking over one another and not letting a guest get a word in edgewise, Ms. Nichols was remarkable.
I often like The View, but not all the time. It can be a difficult show for some guests.
Nichelle Nichols showed why she is loved by so many and held as a pioneer.

Nichelle looks like a million bucks.

NIchelle is a class act. Her role paved the way for so many to follow.
And from having met her, I can tell you she is just wonderful to her fans. ; )

I’ve heard Nichelle tell that story in interviews before, and it is still an amazing story each time she tells it.

What about Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan? Whoopi was inspired by Nichelle Nichols.

@ 16 – While I agree that there is more that can be done, to answer your question…Episode #101 – Redemption II: Picard had to convince Fleet Admiral Shanthi (Fran Bennett) to run the blockade along the Klingon/Romulan border.

That said, it will be good to see what they can do to expand the Uhura role in the next film and, when Star Trek comes back to TV, perhaps they will keep this issue in mind when creating a cast of characters.

I, too, watched The View simply to see Nichelle and was greatly annoyed by Barbra Walters constant interruption of Nichelle’s storytelling… hard to believe she is ranked amongst the best interviewers of her time, I guess her day is over!!!! I personally do not watch The View as I find it very annoying to watch people constantly talking over each other, and the guests are permitted so little actual time to express themselves that I ask myself what was the point of the visit? I was disappointed Whoopi wasn’t present to interact with Nichelle who was a major inspiration for her growing up. Instead we end up with Sherri ??? whatshername??? mispronouncing Miss Nichols name at the interview’s end (if it can be so labelled!) SHAME on you, Girl! As always Miss Nichols was the epitome of Grace, elegance & style… a 1st Class Act as usual!!!

Nichelle is amazing. I’m so glad the Uhura character got added in.

Also, I’m not expert of Swahili, but if the name “Uhura” comes from “Uhuru” shouldn’t it be pronounced “Uhoora” not “Ahora” (as they sometimes do)?


I guess you forgot about Guinan, the admiral from “Redemption”, and Kassidy Yates, Captain Sisko’s wife.

Stephanie Powers= April Dancer as the Girl from Uncle…. Thats what I fell in love with as a kid in 60’s as well. But Nichelle is still has so much going for her. She was wonderful to us at the Anaheim Wizard Con. There was hardly any one talking with her at her table and yet there were a bunch of people dress in Trek. I think we got about 45 minutes alone with her and she spoke with us like we were friends for years. My wife adores her and Nichelle is the only reason why my wife will wear a TOS red dress uniform, not because I ask her to wear it for me.


Personally, I’d rather see other races get some shine on Trek that don’t get represented as much, if at all in the media.

That is a relatively forgotten legacy of the original series. There was a Sikh officer, many Asians (who didn’t do chop suey) and Indian officers.

This may have been the first time those races were represented in such a fashion.

I mean it’s nice to see black female representation and lord knows we could definitely use far more, but sometimes we forget comparatively we got it pretty good compared to other ethnicities.

Robau was so very cool. :)

Given a choice between seeing a high profile Desi character and a black female character, I’d rather see the Desi…

Seeing both would be even better. Really, any steps other than the status quo of white dude is the star and everybody else follows or helps to tell his story, would be a nice change.

…Though that I think that in particular may be more for future stories in Hollywood, since Trek already has an established hierarchy. Though any new side characters could due for some color blind casting.

I recorded “The View” just for the Nichelle Nichols interview. I was surprised by Barbara Walter’s rudeness. It was as if she was saying, “Shut up and get to the only reason we’re having you on the show.”

I think it was disrespectful, and vaguely racist, to have someone on to be your token MLK guest and then rush her through it.


In all fairness, for all you know the director could have given her a signal to speed up the interview for the sake of a commercial break.

That happens in TV all the time. Racism accusations as the motivation for that for which it could easily and more plausibly be something else, only makes legitimate claims seem less believable to those who would dismiss it.

Barbara Walters isn’t racist. She had an affair with a married, African-American senator.


Sleeping with black people doesn’t automatically mean you’re not racist.

see: American slavery and what commonly happened to enslaved black women during it.

That said, Walter’s behavior in that segment makes no statement about race bias, either way.

Dr King a Trekkie. Just shows how powerful Star Treks vison of the future is.

Regarding Black females in Trek , Geogi La Forges mom was a starship captain


The actress who played Geordi’s mom, Madge Sinclair, also played the captain of the Saratoga in “The Voyage Home”. There was also Tryla Scott from the “Next Generation” episode “Consipiracy”.

36 – Just stirring the pot. Ya can’t trust me around the silverware, either.

31. Stefanie Powers

Lt. Bailey, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who was cranked by Stefanie Powers! You have good taste, sir!

Its so strange because when I was growing up I saw her as an equal. I didn’t really see her any differently than any of the other characters. I didn’t understand until much later in my life just how important her role was. I’m just as shocked watching the cage in its original form (I never saw it until 2010) and seeing them talk down to women that way and then finding out that the women of the period thought they deserved it.

42 – I hope the women didn’t think they deserved it. I tend to think it was a question of crappy studio executives ruining scripts and movies. There are examples of well-written movies with strong women’s roles. And there’s crap. Re-watch (if you can) Airport ’75 and take a drink every time Charleton Heston calls Karen Black (who’s trying to fly a 747!) “Baby.” You’ll be drunk before the second reel change. Or, more to the point, rewatch Bonanza (#2 show in America during the run of Trek) and count the lines per episode given to Hop Sing. Then tell me George Takei has something to complain about.

Seriously everybody needs to simmer with the racial thing.. Deep Space Nine’s Lead character was Black.. and that was one of the best series of trek! its not the colour of the skin, its the actor\actress’s ability and the material they are given to work with…


Ideally, that’s wonderful, but proportionately it’s not enacted that much these days. And considering that it’s 2011, that pretty pathetic.

It’s easy for one who sees his image everywhere to say simmer down to everybody else, but we’d like to see ourselves represented in just as many diverse ways as well.

…And not just a few token examples, either.

I don’t think calling for that should be equated to be being heated or angry.

I love “Tell Me More”. It is great NPR show and Michel Martin is great!!

41 Harry,

Thank you for that high praise! The next Tranya or Romulan Ale is on me.

@ #45, gingerly – January 19, 2011

“… It’s easy for one who sees his image everywhere to say simmer down to everybody else, but we’d like to see ourselves represented in just as many diverse ways as well.
…And not just a few token examples, either. …”

Focusing strictly on [US] GENRE film/television (mega-) narratives for a moment, I do wonder about the various strategies that might facilitate a permanent shift towards a truly balanced representation.

On a general, non-content-specific level, perhaps a COMBINATION of more inclusive casting practices (demonstrated lately, as I would dare to argue, however imperfectly, by the TV-series “Flashforward”) and of the construction of characters defined by flexible and continuously changing, rather than static structural, narrative functions, could prove useful?

From my point of view, the Crime/Thriller/Drama trilogy “Infernal Affairs” [Mou Gaan Dou I-III, Hong Kong 2002-2003] represents a very instructive (as well as accomplished) example of the latter storytelling approach. This particular narrative, presented in the form of three distinct, yet closely linked feature films, does employ characters which (sometimes even literally) do change places and functions constantly throughout the course of the story.

In order to better illustrate my argument, I would like to list just a few specific examples:
Spoiler-space for the protection of prospective viewers, who wish to be shielded from too much information
1. The nominal, original protagonist dies at the end of the first film, the main antagonist takes his place.
2. Both of the characters appear in the second installment (a prequel) in supporting functions, but they do not take center stage. This creates the space for two other characters from the previous feature, a mentor and a secondary villain, to step into role of the protagonists.
3. The original antagonist morphs into the central character of the third film (concurrently a prequel and a sequel) and transforms into a tragic hero, with the original protagonist functioning mostly as a supporting character in the shape of his former counterpart´s internal foil, role model and, ultimately. obsession.

Awsome lady