My Hero Is A Woman

LOS ANGELES – MARCH 29: Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in the STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES episode, “Assignment: Earth.” Season 2, episode 26. Original air date was March 29, 1968. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Yesterday somebody who was really important to me died, but I never had the chance to meet her. She was Nichelle Nichols, and she was an American treasure. You may know her as Uhura on the original Star Trek. What you might not know is that she wanted to quit the show, but was encouraged by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He told her that she had to stay because she had a major role in a TV series. In 1966, a Black person, let alone a Black woman, was a major accomplishment. So she stayed, and touched the hearts of a lot of people.

She went on to take part in TV’s first interracial kiss, with William Shatner (Captain Kirk). The characters were being manipulated by an alien being. She said in a documentary that they filmed the scene two ways, one in which they kissed, and one in which they did not. Shatner made some kind of face in the non-kiss scene, but it wasn’t discovered until later (She explained how he managed this very well, but I’m working from memory and lack of TV production knowledge here.) Bottom line, they had to use the actual kiss.

One more thing you might not know is that Ms. Nichols worked for NASA and increased the number of women and minorities that were hired. She was also responsible for the first space shuttle being named Enterprise. Trek fans, both at NASA and beyond quickly jumped in to support her. By the way, for a lot of kids, Star Trek was a major factor in their choice of career. Many who have, and do, work at NASA were and are, fans.

To me personally, I love all these stories, but the thing I loved most about Nichelle Nichols is seeing a strong, beautiful, talented woman on the bridge of a starship every single week. She gave me hope and fired my own dreams. If I ever become a well-known author, I’ll have Ms. Nichols to thank.

She was, and always shall be, my hero.


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