Nichelle Nichols Explains How Martin Luther King Convinced Her to Stay on Star Trek


Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series (1966-1969). During the days when African-Americans were still fighting for legal equality in America, her role took on special importance. Her inclusion on the Enterprise pointed to a future when Americans could live and work together, putting race aside. And Nichols made history when Lt. Uhura and Captain Kirk embraced in the first inter-racial kiss on American television.

We can partly thank Martin Luther King, Jr. for all of this. As Nichols explains below, she gave considered leaving Star Trek at the end of Season 1, hoping to pursue a broadway career. But MLK asked her to reconsider. A big fan of the show, Dr. King underscored the importance of her character, of what it meant to future African-Americans, of how her character, through the power of TV, was opening a door that could never be closed. Needless to say, he persuaded her to stay on the show, and the rest is glorious history.

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Comments (6)
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  • This is a great fact that I’d never heard! Thanks for sharing.

    It’s great how far we’ve come–and sad how far we have left to go.

  • Great post, Dan. Thanks for helping spread the word about this episode.

  • merridee says:

    Yes, the sinatra/davis,jr kiss was quick peck, not a full on lip lock in a music video. The Urhura/Kirk kiss was an intimate, hot “we’re passionate lovers” kiss. THAT is what made it daring and risky.

  • June says:

    They never really kissed, just made it appear that way. Per an interview with both of them

  • Hey Dan, I don’t know if you know this (or if you’re the right person to tell here on Open Culture), but you can actually put our free widget on your site and run our shows right here. It runs the last three shows. I don’t want to spam you, so if you want it, you can email me at or get it on our website. And my apologies if this was an inappropriate comment. That was not our intention. We love “Open Culture.” Best,

  • federico says:

    good morning/night! however?

    mrs. nichols: not all of “enterprise” i saw but most of them. not many words because this would or schould be
    unlogical. i thank you for beeing a wonderful part of my

    thank you, it´s logical and you are fascinating.
    honestly from vienna


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