Today is a sad day for fans with news breaking on the passing of Nichelle Nichols, the trailblazing actress who played Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series. She was 89. The announcement was made on Nichols’ official website and social media channels.
According to the post from her son Kyle, Nichols passed away on Saturday night, July 30. The post said in part:
I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.
Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.
Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.
The family asks fans for their patience as they grieve her loss, and say there will be a private service for Nichols with family members and her closest friends. In the last year, Nichols moved from Los Angeles to Silver City, New Mexico to be closer to her family.
A historic life
Nichelle was born in 1932 in Chicago, Illinois, where she graduated high school and studied dance at the Chicago Ballet Academy. Her dancing caught the attention of legendary composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, and she toured with his orchestra and made her singing debut when the band’s singer fell ill. She eventually moved to Los Angeles, where she danced in movies and began to get guest roles on television shows. She first worked with Gene Roddenberry when she guest-starred on The Lieutenant, the series he produced prior to Star Trek.
She was subsequently cast as Lieutenant Uhura, the Enterprise’s chief communications officer, in 1966 after the show got a series commitment from NBC, and played the role throughout the series’ three-season run. The on-screen kiss she shared with William Shatner in the third season episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” was both groundbreaking and controversial. She continued to play Uhura in The Animated Series and the six TOS feature films.
Nichols’ role as a person of authority and expertise on the bridge of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek was groundbreaking for 1960s television. Seeing a woman of color as part of the future was important to many in the civil rights community, especially Dr. Martin Luther King, who famously encouraged Nichols to stick with the series. Many prominent figures have spoken about being inspired by Nichols, including former president Barack Obama.
One of those who has cited Nichols as an inspiration is Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space. During the 1970s, Nichelle became a recruiter for NASA, helping to bring women and minorities into the agency. Among her many recruits were Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and Charles Bolden, who became the NASA Administrator. Her remarkable efforts are chronicled in the 2021 documentary Woman In Motion.
Nichelle was a regular on the Trek convention circuit since its earliest days, and she was beloved by fans everywhere for her warm, caring presence, and devotion to Trek’s ideals. She began to slow down a bit over the past decade, and was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, after which she began to scale back her work and public appearances. Her final convention appearance was during the Nichelle Nichols Farewell Celebration, a 3-day event held during Los Angeles Comic Con on December 3-5, 2021.
A representative of the family tells TrekMovie that fans can offer their condolences on Nichelle’s official Facebook Page.
The staff of TrekMovie.com offer their deepest condolences to the friends and family of Nichelle Nichols. She will never be forgotten.
She’s Really not Dead. As long as we Remember her.
And, We Will Always Remember Her.
She will be remembered with honor.
Even though we knew this day was coming, it’s still very sad. Still, a life well lived is a beautiful thing, and Ms. Nichols did so very much with her life, not just in the performing arts but also as a NASA recruiter. The number of people she inspired is huge, and the effect she had was profound, especially — but not exclusively — on women of color.
Thank you, Ms. Nichols, for making the world a better place through your actions and your example. We should all be so lucky as to have an effect on the world as excellent as your own.
“And Admiral… all my hopes.”
What a wonderful person and performer. You will be missed.
To this Day, My All Time Favorite Trek Quote.
These days,I use it whenever loved ones are in need of support.So, I guess Nichelle had an impact on my life as well. She changed me, For The Better.
Wow this one hit hard! I literally gasped when I saw the news online. Yes, we knew it was coming but like any death, it’s still hard. Always loved and admired Nichols as others. She inspired so many people and paved the way for other women and people of color in Hollywood. Whoopi Goldberg has constantly said she only became an actress due to Nichols and watching her play Uhura every week. She left a great legacy to the world.
May she rest in peace.
One of the things that I love about the 1970s animated series is that Uhura got substantial roles in several stories that she never had the chance to on TOS. I’m glad that the legacy of her character and her immortal definition of it lives on in Strange New Worlds.
Nichelle Nichols was a role model for everybody, and I’m really going to miss her presence in this world.
Agreed. As someone who just watched TAS for the first time last year I was surprised how much more Uhura got to do on that show. Actually both her and Chapel.
Actually the one project where Uhura got the most to do was in the Tim Russ and James Cawley fan film “Of Gods and Men”. To this day it’s the only Star Trek fan film I ever watched straight through and Nichols was basically the star in that one. I thought it was really good for a fan film. I would encourage people to check it out if they haven’t before.
And I loved the Prodigy episode “Kobayashi Maru” bringing back a lot of the legacy characters from the past shows using their actual voices from the shows including hers obviously. That was also a nice tribute to iconic Trek stars who already passed away. It’s sad but fitting now she was included in that episode as a tribute to her with the others. I rewatched it a few days ago and probably my favorite one of that show so far.
She means so much to so many, and one of the few people who changed so many lives for the better simply with her presence. Yep. Literally an icon.
Beyond delighting as Uhura and inspiring women and people of color, she did so many brilliant things with her celebrity, especially with NASA. I hope she was comfortable in her final months and knew how beloved she was and always will be.
I thiink tonight. I am going to watch a couple of Star Trek Tos Eps that she did a lot of work in. The Gamesters and Mirrior Mirrior. Just to remember the way she was.
She was wonderful in “Mirror, Mirror”! A great episode to remember her by.
Such a Class Act. Just watched those and The Squire of Gothos. So many are now gone.
Completely agree. I loved her performance in that episode.
Hailing Frequencies Closed…………
May She Rest with the Eternal Stars.
That’s very sad news.
Nichelle Nichols had a presence that grounded the show with her humanity. As an actor, she was fully in command of her tools, she could play a scene to any effect, and the way she reacted to others, even only with a crook of her eyebrow or knowing smile, gave life to the moment. There is no comparison, she is going to endure through her brilliant work for a long time to come.
Nichelle embraced her role on and off screen perhaps sooner than any other TOS actor. It must have been an unexpected burden for an actor. Yet she willingly and happily accepted the part she was to play for the rest of her life. There must be a special place in heaven for her. God bless – RIP
What a life! RIP
A fitting tribute for Nichelle, Baby Names.
Nichelle Nyota/Nyota Nichelle.
Uhuru has been used as a boys name in the past.
There Are Always Possibilities.
The more her life and her work is discussed and shared, the better or world will be. Rest In Power.
Ms. Nichols has always been a peacemaker among the TOS actors, especially whenever Shatner and Takei get into Twitter spats. But more than that, she inspired many, especially women and PoC, to seek the stars, in any endeavor. For that, she will be sorely missed. RIP.
My first-ever crush
She’s in a better place…
Nichelle Nichols blazed trails for many through Star Trek. Her contributions are cemented forever and the role of Uhura is in good hands of Zoe Saldana and Celia Gooding. Nichelle is now among the stars for all eternity. She will be missed by all. RIP
Oh no… Rest in Peace, beautiful soul. You have changed the world forever. My sincerest condolences to her relatives and my utmost respect for the woman who stayed on that bridge to make her stand.
Now, there are only three of these legends out there…
This hit me harder than I thought it would.
Rest in peace, Nichelle. You will always be remembered. I am thankful that I had the pleasures of meeting Nichelle several times at conventions. She was a class act! My heart goes to her family and friends.
She was wonderful and will be missed by millions of fans across the globe. I helped her out of wheelchair and held her up and walked her through airport security several years ago at LAX. She hugged me after and posed for a selfie. Such warmth. A highlight of my life. So many reasons she was great and such a glowing symbol of progress. Hailing frequencies closed. :(
In my own sadness, I envy you that moment, sir.
I’m having a hard time writing something here. I will say that her advocacy for civil rights, her representation of African American women on TV, and her push for NASA to recruit women and minorities has brought us closer to the Star Trek future. When humanity reaches that point someday, there will be a USS Nichols. She will be remembered as one of the trailblazers, who started us on the journey to a better humanity.
Your comment was so perfect that it made me cry (in a good way). I love the idea of a USS Nichols that celebrates all that Ms. Nichols did to bring us closer to a Star Trek future.
Very nicely put KevinB.
A truly sad day.
Someone you feel you have known most of your life even though you have never met!
I remember Nichelle would routinely end her Star Trek convention stage appearances by singing — usually one of the songs she did on the TV show. When I asked her to add an “Uhura” to a signed photo, she would often cap that name with an exclamation mark.
The last original cast members left are the ones who played crew members who wore the gold uniforms. Although, technically, Uhura also wore the gold during her first appearance. And, she was the only character who at some point on the TV series appeared in red, gold, and (via coveralls once) blue Starfleet attire.
You inspired and entertained me, my family and friends all of our lives.
I was there from the beginning, and as each one of my childhood hero’s passes I think fondly of those early years.
Boldly go Nichele Nichols to the stars and beyond.
For now, All Hailing Frequencies Closed.
Very few people put as much goodness into the world during their lives as she did. It’s sad that she’s gone, but everyone who knew her should take some pride in the fact that in a sense, she will live forever via her work.
A Class Act.
Thank you for your spirit, talent, and leadership, Ms. Nichols.
She had Mr adventure eating out of her hand
Rest in peace 🕊️, Nichelle. You’re in a place where you won’t feel no more pain, only happiness. And I hope that you, Leonard, DeForest, Jimmy, Gene, and Majel are all back together again, laughing and joking about old times. Your legacy will continue to inspire countless others for years to come and I’m gonna light a candle 🕯️ for you tonight, Nichelle.
RIP Nichelle. Truly a legend.
This one hurts. So many touchstones recently in the arts that have passed. They’re markers in time.
Ms. Nichols, by all accounts was a lovely and talented woman who inspired a lot of young people.
My condolences and prayers to her family.
A true legend! gone but never forgotten
It is a sad day indeed. While we knew this is what is in store for the TOS crew, we know that there will comes a time when the entire crew will be united, sailing the galaxy(Heaven) together, once again. Where they all belong…
I grew up watching Star Trek as an 8 year old when it first came on TV. As a child, you know nothing of diversity, you just saw a group of people work together to bring adventure and entertainment to kid. For that, I thank them all. Those that have gone before and those who are still with us. My wife and I will surely drink a toast tonight to Nichelle…. “to absent friends.”
Rest in Peace Nichelle, you gave us some much with your kindness when we met in Las Vegas.
We have lost a beautiful and inspirational person. A pioneer on and off screen. My heartfelt sympathies to her family and friends.
Very sad to hear this. There were very few blacks on television even during the late 1960s. Obviously, she didn’t have her own show (like Diahann Carroll in Julia) but she was a very important character. Wish she had more parts like “Mirror Mirror”, but in rewatching the show I noticed how everything basically came through Uhura to get to Kirk — she was first contact. Very dignified. Very elegant. RIP.
I’m gutted….As a volunteer at the Star Trek Set Tour, I’ve met several Trek celebs, who for the most part, are wonderful.
I watched Nichelle come into the dealers room, I was just awestruck. She was TV history, a star, a role model, and a tireless advocate for recruiting African American women to become astronauts.
She motioned to me as she needed something. I walked up, extended my hand and tried to introduce myself. Something like Klingon croak came out of my mouth.
She was so lovely. She took my hand and said “Hi, I’m Nichelle. What’s your name?” I was then able to tell her my name and how happy we were that she was attending that Trekonderoga weekend.
“I’m happy to be here. I’ve a request. Can you help me?” At this point, I’d have donated a kidney. I forget what she asked for but I got it to her quickly. “Why thank you, Dennis. That was quick. Can I rely on you for more help” I of course said yes but her handler arrived and took care of her.
A week or so later we were at Vegas. She walked by and said hello to me by my name. Amazing human being.
May You Boldly Go, Ms Nichols…Boldly Go…
Hailing frequencies closed….
You’re so lucky you work at the set tour and to have gotten to help her out!
Just a volunteer. The set tour has a great full time staff, during day to day tours.
I and many others volunteer to help when they have big events. I was 1st AD on a few NV episodes. Now, it’s just to help with whatever they need. My significant other is the event manager for big weekends. When Ms. Nichols arrived, I was genuinely starstruck for the first time. She was just so wonderful to everyone. She was just well-regal, even in her wheelchair to get around. When she posed on the Bridge, with her iconic earpiece in her ear? It was chills down your spine as 50 years melted away and we were in 1966. A magic moment. So many people walked up to her autograph table to tell her she was a role model she was, and the impact it made on them. I spoke to her many times, at other conventions. She allowed me access to her, past her security people. She remembered my name, once or twice. In Vegas, she asked me to her something, maybe some tea. I was going to Starbucks anyways, so I got her a tea, and some pastries for her and her entourage.
I was just in Ticonderoga for William Shatner’s visit. May have crossed paths and didn’t know it! Thank you for sharing your fond memories of Ms. Nichols. I never had the chance to meet her but I’m sure in the more casual and informal atmosphere of Ticonderoga her charm was on full display.
A sad day. She will be missed.
Editors, one correction to this lovely obit: Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. The first woman went to space 20 years earlier in 1963, when Valentina Tereshkova piloted Vostok 6.
Rest in Power Nichelle Nichols…
Of course something I’ll always wondered about is Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekhov all appeared in TNG or later Trek, but Uhura didn’t.
What was Chekov in? Or are you talking about Generations?
They couldn’t afford the entire TOS cast for Generations. The studio only was going to allow 3 actors. Maybe 4. Takei gave his part to the actress who played his daughter. DeForest was too sick, Nimoy said no. They brought in Koenig and Doohan to replace the parts written for Spock and Bones. And of course Shatner as Kirk the one character who they needed or they had no movie.
Considered the potential the script didn’t used, it is no surprise that Nimoy said no.
Compared to the salaries the actors of Nu-Trek demand, it is a shame that they couldn’t affort the whole TOS-cast.
I had the honor meeting Nichelle Nichols a few years ago at the Denver Comic-Con. This was back in 2015, so she was 82 at the time, but she was still very, very full of life. She was incredibly sweet, and incredibly sassy ;)
She’s really not dead, as long as we remember her.
Unfortunately Time is the one constant in this universe that we can’t fight against and which will take us all eventually. It was Nichelle’s time and she will always be remembered as the legend she was both on and off screen. Good travels Nichelle and may your hailing frequencies always be open in heaven.
A very elegant and classy lady, and deserving of the love and respect she got along her journey on this planet.
RIP. I always enjoyed seeing her at conventions. Very classy and an inspiration to many.
I’m sooo sad and so lucky to have met her at a convention. She’s always been the most inspiring member of the original cast to me, just incredible how so legit she was, fully embracing her role as an icon, literally changing the face of NASA and the future along with it. Star Trek wouldn’t have had near as much impact if she wasn’t on the show. I’m in NYC where there was a screening of TWOK on the Intrepid on Friday, and Emperor Mike is right to quote McCoy – she’s really not dead, as long as we remember her. There’s also a screening of First Contact happening in Bryant Park Monday night, and the Trek meetup group might hold a little vigil for her. We’re so blessed she was part of our Trek family.
Such a beautiful person. She will be missed.
It was also Nichols who was the person to finally tell Shatner, after he interviewed her for his memoirs, what a jerk he had been to them all in the sixties. Shatner claims he was shocked, and I’m willing to believe him to a certain degree, and then tried (sometimes successfully, sometimes not-quite-successfully) to make amends with his old castmates. (I am making no judgments on anyone involved here, including Shatner.) But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine anyone else having that effect on him. In all honesty, had it been, say, Takei, Shatner might well have blown it off. There was something about Nichols that demanded that respect, even from Shatner. That’s saying something.
(Shatner, by the way, put up a very nice tweet in her memory.)
To the Producers of either Star Trek Picard or Discovery. We need a U.S.S Uhura and or U.S.S Nichols.
So I stayed up all night (got work in 2 hours) making this tribute video to her… I don’t know if it’s something TM will allow me to share, but I put a lot of work into it because she means so much to me
Nice tribute. Well done.
Thank you for watching :)