89-year-old American actress Nichelle Nichols breathed her last on Saturday, her son Kyle Johnson confirmed in a statement. In a post on Facebook he wrote, “Last night (Saturday), 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.” 

Her role as Lt Uhura in the 1966 series Star Trek  not only helped her gain immense popularity but also put black actors on the map in Hollywood. She was the first African-American actress to have played a recurring lead role in a television series . Her role was a breakthrough for many at the time.  

After the series ended in 1969, she was appointed as a board member at the National Space Institute and after a decade, she joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) . Since her role inspired many in real life as well, NASA used her fandom for their recruitment drive. They produced a film with Nichols, for which the target audience included people of colour, women and other minority groups. The idea was to motivate individuals to join the agency. According to reports, the movie worked just the way they intended it to and NASA received around 8, 000 applications. 

A few notable names who came through after this recruitment drive are the first American woman in space, Dr Sally Ride and the first African American in space Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. The agency was so happy with her that they felicitated her with a public service award.  

Nichols also had an inclination towards music. She started her journey in the entertainment industry as a singer and dancer. She used to do ballet with Duke Ellington and his band. Later, when the band’s lead singer quit, Ellington asked her to sing, and that is how her singing career began. She even released two albums namely, 1967’s Down to Earth and 1991’s Out of This World. She has even sung in her Star Trek episodes as Uhura.  

Fraternity members of the industry are mourning her loss. Here’s what they’re saying: 

Featured Image Credits: Nichelle Nichols/ Twitter