Actor & Activist
Actress Nichelle Nichols was born on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois. As a child, Nichols’ family moved to Chicago where she studied dance at the Chicago Ballet. During the late 1940s, Nichols was discovered by jazz legend Duke Ellington and toured with both Ellington and Lionel Hampton as a lead singer and dancer. Her acting career began in the film Porgy and Bess (1959); and her first television role was in The Lieutenant (1964). Nichols went on to record two albums, including Down to Earth (1968), and Out of This World (1991). In 1966, Nichols was cast as Lieutenant Commander Uhura in Star Trek, which marked one of the first times that an African American actress was portrayed in a non-stereotypical role on television. Nichols went on to appear as Uhura numerous times in the Star Trek movie and television series. Nichols married dancer Foster Johnson in 1951 and divorced the same year. They had one child together, Kyle Johnson. She married Duke Mondy, in 1968; they divorced in 1972. In 1975, Nichols established Women in Motion, Inc., a company that produced educational materials using music as a teaching tool and was expanded to become an astronaut recruitment tool after Nichols won a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This resulted in thousands of women and minorities applying to NASA’s space program such as Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, and Ellison Onizuka. In addition to her autobiography, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories (1994), she co-authored Saturn’s Child (1995). In October of 1984, Nichols was presented with NASA’s Public Service Award for her many efforts towards integrating the U.S. space program. She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992. Nichols was elected an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; and, on June 8, 2010, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Los Angeles Mission College. Nichols passed away on July 30, 2022 at the age of 89.
"When you are yourself, nobody can touch you."