“Uhura” comes from the Swahili word UHURU meaning “freedom”. Uhura was pretty much the first ever black main character on American television who was not a maid or a domestic servant in 1966. TV network NBC refused to let Nichelle Nichols be a regular, claiming Deep South affiliates would be angered, so Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry hired her as a “day worker,” but still included her in almost every episode. She actually made more money than any of the other actors through this workaround, and it was kept secret from the other actors, but it was still a humiliating second-class status. The network people made life hard for Nichols, constantly trying to pare down her screen time, purposefully dropping racist comments in her presence and even withholding her fan mail from her.This deplorable state of affairs led Nichols to make the decision to quit after the 1st season, but then she happened to meet the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. who pleaded with her to stick with the show because as a Black woman she was portraying the first non-stereotypical role on television. I had a crush on Uhura as a kid. LOL.
I love this picture, I love this woman, I love that Gene took a stand against the network, and I love that Nichelle had the courage to stick around, and inspire a generation of women (of color and otherwise) to believe in themselves.
Singing with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, playing one of the most recognizable characters in mainstream science fiction, asked by Martin Luther King to be a role model and inspiring Dr. Mae Jemison to join NASA and become the first black woman in space (and the first astronaut to do a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation)? Now those are achievements.