One of the highlights of the first season of “Star Trek,” which was broadcast from 1966-67, was the featuring of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, the USS Enterprise’s chief communications officer. The significance of this was that Uhura was one of the first characters of an American primetime television series to be of African descent and to be portrayed in a role of significance, not a menial one.
However, Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Uhura, had always held a dream of singing on Broadway, and her performances on “Star Trek” that first season had opened some doors for her, and she was getting ready to realize that life-long aspiration.
But Martin Luther King Jr. persuaded Nichols to remain on “Star Trek.” He told her that she had become a symbol and that all of the gains that she had helped realize could be lost if she left the show and been replaced by “a blonde haired white girl.” Her role in the civil-rights fight was an important and essential one.
It should be noted that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” prided himself on the multicultural cast that had been together for the show and had pleaded with Nichols to remain prior to her meeting with King.
Nichols then remained on the show for its final two seasons, and she and Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, even kissed during the show’s third season, the first famous instance of an interracial kiss in American television history. She would continue to play Uhura’s character through the 1991 film, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” and was even able to help NASA recruit astronaut candidates of all races and genders. Nichols also acted in other productions but will forever be most famous for having portrayed Uhura.