The statement posted to Nichol’s official Facebook account read, “Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World I regret to inform you that 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. I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further,” the statement further reads. “Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.” The statement ended with the show’s send-off, “Live Long and Prosper.”
The information was verified by the Star Trek official Twitter account. “We’re deeply saddened to report the passing of Nichelle Nichols, a trailblazer, an inspiration, and so much more. She will be deeply missed,” the tweet reads. Nichols made history as the first Black woman to portray the lead in a television series. The actress made her series debut in 1966 as a bridge crew member on the USS Enterprise, opposite William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk.
Nichols made history on the show and encouraged additional black performers to join in subsequent seasons and versions. Nichols and Kirk’s characters kissed while under mind control in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” marking the first interracial lip-to-lip kiss on American television. Nichols famously stated that Dr Martin Luther King Jr. persuaded her to continue in the part after she told him she didn’t want to return because she wanted to appear on Broadway.
“I turned around straight into the face of Dr Martin Luther King and nearly fainted,” Nichols told Entertainment Tonight in 1992. “He admired the show and told me how much he admired my work and how important it was. I said, ‘Well, thank you very much, but I’m leaving the show.’ And Dr King said, ‘You can not! You have changed the face of television forever!'”
He said, ‘It is more important that people who are not Black see this show, see you in this role, because they see us for the first time as we should be seen, as equals,'” Nichols said. Nichols began her career as a singer with Duke Ellington at the age of 16. The actress went on to study cinema in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, as well as appearing on stage in Carmen and Kicks & Co. She also featured on Heroes, Are We There Yet, and Snow Dogs. May her soul rest in peace.
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