Nichelle Nichols is a pioneer who broke down barriers for African-American women in her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek. She and co-star William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk) shared TV's first interracial kiss.
She was also the first African-American to place her handprints in front of Hollywood's Chinese Theater. In 1992 she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nichols was discovered by Duke Ellington in her mid-teens, and she toured with both him and Lionel Hampton as a singer and dancer. In 1992, she went back to her singing roots, starring in a dramatic one-woman musical show called Reflections, in which she played the roles of 12 different song legends.
From the late '70s until 1987, Nichols was employed by NASA and was in charge of astronaut recruits and hopefuls. Former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, says she was inspired by Nichols.
Nichols has continued to act. Like her Star Trek co-star George Takei (Sulu), she guest-starred in several episodes of the hit NBC show Heroes in 2007 as Nana Dawson. In 2008, she appeared in the independent films Tru Loved and The Torturer.
Lt. Nyota Uhura's televised debut made quite an impression, as she was one of the first African-American females to conquer the sci-fi world - in a mod mini, fake eyelashes and go-go boots, no less. Her character was a key member of the ship's crew and central to its communication efforts with foreign colonies. She is from Africa and speaks Swahili as well as English; her name means freedom. Her role on the Enterprise is Communications Officer and she holds the rank of lieutenant. The character of Uhura was quite unique as she was one of the first African-American characters that was not in a stereotypical role. Her character was not a maid but rather a key member of the ship's crew. She is from Africa and speaks Swahili as well as English; her name means freedom. Her role on the Enterprise is Communications Officer. She holds the rank of lieutenant.