Film, TV & Stage

Martin Luther King Jr convinced Nichelle Nichols to remain on Star Trek because her role was important for the black community

IMPORTANT ROLE: Nichelle Nichols

IMPORTANT ROLE: Nichelle Nichols as Uhura

THE ACTRESS who played the groundbreaking role of Uhura on Star Trek has revealed that upon announcing she planned to leave the show, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) convinced her to say.

Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura in 1966 when she was just 34, was one of the first times a character of African descent was featured in a non-menial role on an American television series and MLK said it was too important for her to walk away.

“I was offered a role on Broadway,” she told a Redditor. “I was a singer on stage long before I was an actress, and Broadway was always a dream to me. I was ready to leave Star Trek and pursue what I’d always wanted to do.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, quite some time after I’d first met him, approached me and said something along the lines of ‘Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become an symbol. If you leave, they can replace you with a blonde haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there.

PLEA: Martin Luther King Jr

PLEA: Martin Luther King Jr

“‘What you’ve accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay.’ That got me thinking about how it would look for fans of colour around the country if they saw me leave. I saw that this was bigger than just me.”

Recalling the time they met, she said:

“I went to an NAACP fundraiser, I believe it was, in Beverly Hills. And one of the promoters came over to me and said, Ms. Nichols, there’s someone who would like to meet you. He says he is your greatest fan.

“And I’m thinking a Trekker, you know. And I turn, and before I could get up, I looked across the way and there was the face of Dr. Martin Luther King smiling at me and walking toward me. And he started laughing. By the time he reached me, he said, yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan. I am that Trekkie.”

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