American actress Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role in the TV series Star Trek, has died aged 89.
Ms Nichol’s role as the communications chief Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek franchise in the 1960s was groundbreaking by showing a Black woman in a position of authority. In one episode, she also shared one of the first interracial kisses on American prime-time television alongside co-star William Shatner.
Her son Kyle Johnson said she died of natural causes on Saturday night.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Mr Johnson 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.
“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.”
Despite her success, however, Ms Nicholls had initially considered leaving the show. But Dr Martin Luther King Jr persuaded her to stay. He described her character as the “first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history”.
She featured in the first six Star Trek movies following the series’s cancellation in 1969.
Alongside her acting career, Ms Nicholls also became an ambassador for the US space agency Nasa, helping to recruit women and minorities to its Space programme.
Tributes poured in from a long list of stars and devoted fans.
Co-star George Takei, who shared the bridge with Lieutenant Uhura as helmsman Sulu on the USS Enterprise, tweeted: “My heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”
William Shatner also paid tribute by writing on Twitter:
“She was a beautiful woman and played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US and throughout the world.”
TV director Adam Nimoy – the son of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy said, “The importance of Nichelle’s legacy cannot be over-emphasised. She was much loved and will be missed.”
Marina Sirtis, who played Counsellor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, wrote that Nichols “opened the door for the rest of us who followed in your wake”.
Rest in peace Ms Nichols. You were an inspiration to so many.