Nichelle Nichols, who was widely admired for her groundbreaking role as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on 1966’s Star Trek: The Originals , has died at 89 years old. Her son, Kyle Johnson, revealed the unfortunate news on Sunday (July 31) by posting an update to a website memorializing the life of his mother. He wrote, “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.”
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” he wrote. “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. Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”
When Star Trek first aired, Nichols was one of the first African-American women to play a major role on primetime television. She also shared the first on-screen interracial kiss between a Black woman and white man on American television with her co-star, William Shatner. She reappeared as Uhura for years, in the TV series and in the franchise’s first six films.
Toward the end of her life, Nichols was diagnosed with dementia, leading to a legal battle over the actress’s conservatorship between her son, her former manager Gilbert Bell and Nichols’s friend, Angelique Fawcette. According to the Los Angeles Times, Johnson filed for a conservatorship in 2018, expressing concern for his mother becoming “susceptible to exploitation” due to her diagnosis. Bell and Fawcette both filed countersuits opposing the conservatorship, leading to a web of claims surrounding the actress’s finances and home.
“I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further,” Johnson wrote.
VIBE sends the family of Nichelle Nichols our condolences.