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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.