How MLK Convinced Nichelle Nichols to Stick With Star Trek

An iconic actress and a long-running sci-fi series share a history of progressive firsts

Image of Nichelle Nichols from the January, 1967 edition of Ebony magazine. Photo by Desilu Productions

Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry’s classic, long-running sci-fi series, has long been noted for its progressive values and humanist philosophy. In the world of Star Trek, which debuted in 1966, man’s future was unburdened with petty issues of race and gender. Rodenberry took pains to assemble a diverse cast, and though the studio vetoed the “crazy” idea, he originally wrote the role of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s first officer (which eventually became Leonard Nimoy’s Spock) for a woman. But while the show certainly contended with the bigotries and sensibilities of its day, it still managed to push through a number of historic firsts, many of which came from the pioneering work of Nichelle Nichols, the Enterprise’s own Lieutenant Uhura.

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