Wednesday is International Women’s Day…
But if the eight-year-old Black girl who watched Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura boldly go where no Black woman had gone before has any say in the matter, it will be Interstellar Women’s Day before a century passes.
Nichelle Nichols took on the groundbreaking role of Lt. Nyota Uhura when Star Trek debuted in 1966, planning to stay for just one season — until Martin Luther King, Jr. talked her out of leaving. Star Trek, he told her, was the only TV show he and his wife allowed their little girls to stay up and watch. “For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen,” King said.
Lt. Uhura was one of the first Black women in a major TV show — and she wasn’t subordinate to anyone white or male. She was the head communications officer, the ship’s fourth in command — promoted to commander in one of the Star Trek feature films. (NPR.org)
Dr. King’s daughters weren’t Nichols’ only starry-eyed fans. Eight-year-old Mae Jemison was also glued to the screen. All the white men on the Apollo missions might have seemed daunting, but Lt. Uhura inspired Jemison not to give up. She not only served as an astronaut for six years — she appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. (womenshistory.org)
Nichols stayed with Star Trek until it ended in 1969. She and Jemison went on to recruit women into the space program.
Nichols died last July at 89. As fans pored over the details Lt. Uhura’s career — both onscreen and in the Star Trek canon — a plaque in an episode of Star Trek: Picard showed that Uhura captained the USS Leondegrance from 2301 to 2333. Lt. Uhura rose to the rank of Starship Captain. We thank her for her bold service. (denofgeek.com)
Today, Jemison leads the 100 Year Starship Project, whose aim is to achieve human space travel to another star within the next 100 years. Interstellar Women’s Day, here we come!