Nichelle Nichols, best known for her groundbreaking role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, passed away on Saturday, a family spokesperson said on Sunday.
Her presence as one of the USS Enterprise’s heroic bridge officers was groundbreaking in 1966.
As an 11-year-old Whoopi Goldberg famously called out to her mother, “There’s a Black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!” After completing the original show’s three seasons, Nichols continued her portrayal in a short-lived animated show in the early 1970s, and in a succession of six films from 1979 to 1991. She was 89 years old at the time of her death.
Born in 1932 in a suburb of Chicago, Nichols began her career as a singer and dancer, touring with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton’s bands. She appeared at the legendary Blue Angel club in New York, as well as the Playboy Club, and was in a production of Carmen Jones in Chicago. She also had an uncredited role as a dancer in Otto Preminger’s 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess.
Tucked away at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac, Nichelle Nichols’ Woodland Hills home was a testament to her boundary-breaking career spanning more than 70 years.
Nichols lined walls and shelves with photos of herself as Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” series, memorabilia from her legions of fans and documentation of her contributions to NASA’s recruitment of women and people of color in the 1970s.
The home was Nichols’ pride and joy, say those close to the star. She purchased it in 1982 for $12,000 and meticulously planned its details, from her plush, oversize furniture to the garden where she planted roses to the neighboring property she purchased in 1994 to use as a guesthouse and workspace for projects.
Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.