Arguably no player of fictional roles did more to further science and the future than Nichelle Nichols.  The actress who played Star Trek crew member Uhura for 54 years in the original series, six movies, and fan films passed away today at age 89.  I first met her in San Francisco in the 1990s and later at other events, and she always was gracious, embraced fans, and was always laughing, smiling, and enjoying her time recounting her personal story.  She probably has the most familiar story of any science fiction actor, as she became an icon of television, science fiction, and science fact.

Her greatest story was recounting how she had decided to leave the Star Trek series until she had a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr., who informed her just how important it was that a black woman was being seen by an entire nation on television.  She was an equal crew member serving in a prime-time network series, and would go on to help expand the boundaries of race relations, participating in the first on-screen inter-racial kiss, with co-star William Shatner’s Captain Kirk.

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