Nichelle Nichols, Who Played Lt. Uhura in Star Trek, Dead at Age of 89 | She Worked Tirelessly to Empower Women of Color

Nichelle Nichols, Who Played Lt. Uhura in Star Trek, Dead at Age of 89 | She Worked Tirelessly to Empower Women of Color

She had a wonderful acting career along with activism for minority rights.

Nichelle Nichols, the first Black woman to play a role in primetime television, dies at the age of 89. Gilbert Bell, Nichols' talent manager, and 15-year business partner confirmed her death to Variety on Sunday. She died Saturday Night in Silver City, New Mexico. 

Last December, the actress made her final appearance at a convention in front of her numerous admirers as part of a three-day farewell party at L.A. Comic-Con, reports PEOPLE. Nichols was spotted waving, kissing, and flashing Star Trek's renowned Vulcan salute to the crowds that gathered to say her farewell. Her family and longtime friends surrounded her, including Nichols' son Kyle Johnson, who served as her spokesperson; her younger sister Marian Michaels; actresses Judy Pace and Beverly Todd.



Former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison was also present, who joined NASA as a result of Nichols' role in recruiting women and minorities into the space program in the 1970s and 1980s after her Star Trek fame. Nichols spent decades in the spotlight owing to her film work, singing career, and efforts to help other women thrive in the profession of astronomy.

Her son, Kyle Johnson, wrote in the obituary, "I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years." He added, "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."

On Star Trek, Nichols shared one of the first interracial kisses in television history. Given the current political atmosphere, that moment with her co-star William Shatner was a brave decision for her, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and NBC. Nichols portrayed Lt. Uhura in the original series, voiced her in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and appeared in all six Star Trek films. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Uhura was promoted to lieutenant commander, then in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, she was advanced to full commander.



Her most recent film credits include the 2002 Disney film Snow Dogs, in which she played Cuba Gooding Jr.'s mother. In 2005, she co-starred with Ice Cube as Miss Mable in the comedy Are We There Yet?, and in 2007, she played Nana Dawson on the NBC sitcom Heroes. Nichols, in addition to acting, released two albums, Down to Earth and Out of This World

Nichols' death comes after a conservatorship struggle was uncovered in May 2019, when her manager Gilbert Bell gave a distressing video allegedly shot by him to Atlanta's CBS46. In the video, the actress can be heard yelling in protest while holding what Bell claims are legal guardianship paperwork submitted by her son, Kyle Johnson, who was appointed as her legal conservator by a court.

Bell said, "I knew [Nichols and her son] had a bad relationship. I've never seen Nichelle scream like that. It's like, what is going on behind closed doors every day?" 





Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Rich Fury / Stringer