“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” her son Kyle Johnson wrote on the website Uhura.com. “Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”
Nichols was one of the first Black women featured in a major television series, and her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original TV series was groundbreaking: an African American woman whose name came from Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom.”
“Here I was projecting in the 23rd century what should have been quite simple,” Nichols told NPR in 2011. “We’re on a starship. I was head communications officer. Fourth in command on a starship. They didn’t see this as being, oh, it doesn’t happen til the 23rd century. Young people and adults saw it as now.”
In 1968, Nichols made headlines when Uhura shared an intimate kiss with Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) in an episode called “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Their interracial kiss on the lips was revolutionary, one of the first such moments on TV.