Nichelle Nichols was born on December 28, 1932. She was an American actress, singer, and dancer who became famous for playing Nyota Uhura in the television series “Star Trek: The Original Series” and its subsequent motion pictures. Her portrayal of Uhura in American television was revolutionary for African American female roles. From 1977 to 2015, she promoted NASA projects and tried to find a diverse group of astronauts, including women and people of color. She serves as an inspiration and role model for women of color around the globe. We honor this amazing woman.
Grace Dell Nichols
December 28, 1932
Nichelle Nichols, also known as Grace Dell Nichols, was born in Robbins, Illinois, not far from Chicago, on December 28, 1932. Her father, Samuel Earl Nichols, worked in a factory and was also Robbins’ mayor and chief magistrate. Lishia Mae (Parks) Nichols, her mother, was a housewife. Nichols’ family relocated to Chicago when she was a child, where she attended the Chicago Ballet to study dancing.
She made her acting debut in the 1959 movie “Porgy and Bess,” and her first television appearance was in “The Lieutenant” (1964). Two albums, including “Down to Earth” (1968) and “Out of This World” (1991), were later produced by Nichols. One of the first times an African American actress was given a non-stereotypical role on television was when she was cast as Lieutenant Commander Uhura in “Star Trek” in 1966. In subsequent “Star Trek” films and television episodes, such as “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” “Paramount” (1989), and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), Nichols played Uhura numerous times. In two Tarzan movies, “Tarzan’s Jungle Rebellion” (1967) and “Tarzan’s Deadly Silence” (1970), she was also cast as Ruana. She founded Women in Motion, Inc., in 1975, a business that created educational products that used music as a teaching tool. After Nichols was awarded a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the company’s mission was broadened to include astronaut recruitment. As a result, thousands of women and people of color — including Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, and Ellison Onizuka — applied to join NASA’s space program. Nichols is co-author of “Saturn’s Child” (1995), the sequel to her autobiography “Star Trek and Other Memories,” and a contributor to works by the National Space Institute.
She received NASA’s Public Service Award in October 1984 for her numerous contributions to integrating the American space program. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992 and, together with the other Star Trek cast members, made history by being the first African American actress to leave her handprint in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. In addition to receiving an honorary doctorate from Los Angeles Mission College on June 8, 2010, Nichols was elected as an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The first of her two husbands was dancer Foster Johnson. They got hitched in 1951 and got divorced the following year. Kyle Johnson, who was born on August 14, 1951, was the only child they had together. In 1968, she married Duke Mondy, and in 1972, they divorced.
Her big break comes from a role in Oscar Brown's musical "Kicks and Co."
She plays Lieutenant Uhura in the series, “Star Trek.”
After the cancellation of the series, she voices the animated version of the series "Star Trek: The Animated Series."
Nichols is appointed to the National Space Institute's board of directors and works to increase the number of women and people of color.
Her autobiography, "Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories," is published.
In “The Simpsons” episode ‘Simple Simpson,’ she lends her voice.
Why We Love Nichelle Nichols
She was a good role model
She was and still is an inspiration to young black ladies. She was the first black woman to be on “Star Trek” and acted very well. She made several appearances on television, serving as an example of black excellence and talent.
She was dynamic
She was very talented and appeared in several movies, while she sang at the same time and voiced characters. She showed how diverse her talent was.
She helped the moon mission
Her contribution to NASA cannot be overlooked. She helped in her little way to develop the agency to provide the ground for proper representation of all people, adding to the pool of talent they had.
5 Surprising Facts
Nichols performed with Duke Ellington
She began her career as a vocalist and ballet dancer during Ellington and his band’s performances; however, one night, he requested that she sing.
She gave the name ‘Uhura’
She proposed the name ‘Uhura’ during lunch with director Joseph Sargent, drawing inspiration from the Swahili name ‘Uhuru.’
She almost gave up "Star Trek"
She decided to leave because she felt her part was becoming less important and she wanted her character to do more than just speak her lines.
She was booked for “Playboy”
Hugh Hefner, the owner of “Playboy,” noticed Nichols and invited her to his Chicago Playboy Club.
She was a model
Apart from music and acting, she did a little bit of modeling.
Nichelle Nichols FAQs
What is Nichelle Nichols's role in the racial telecast?
She was involved in the first biracial kiss on the American Network.
How did Nichelle Nichols change the world?
She pushed to fill NASA’s astronaut quota by encouraging many women and people of color to apply.
Is Nichelle Nichols’ son an actor?
Yes, her son Kyle Johnson is also an actor.
Nichelle Nichols’s birthday dates