That time Martin Luther King convinced Nichelle Nichols not to quit Star Trek

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's iconic Uhura
Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's iconic Uhura /

Star Trek fans know of the story of Martin Luther King Jr. convincing Nichelle Nichols to not quit the series but fewer knew of her inner struggle with it.

Most Star Trek fans know the story by now when it comes to Nichelle Nichols wanting to quit the original series, but if you’re new, no worries, we’ll give you the basic rundown. Essentially Nichols, who played Uhura on the original series (and subsequent movies) was given a role she absolutely wanted away from the series. The only problem was that it conflicted with her time filming Star Trek, so she decided to leave the show to chase her ultimate dream.

That was until a chance encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a fundraising event. That night, she told Dr. King of her decision to leave the show, only for him to convince her otherwise. It’s a famous story and one, that on this MLK Day, we wanted to revisit with an interview on that very subject matter.

After all, it’s not just Star Trek or television history that’s being looked at, it’s a cultural history of the country.

The interview below recorded around 2011, highlights the story and talks about how the interaction affected her.

The story is famous among Trek fans, but what may not be known is the weight the whole situation had put on Nichols. In the above video, Nichols talks about how she was angry at being asked to put aside her wants for a larger cause.

Nichols recounts the internal agony of being a symbol of something greater for her race, saying;

"I remember being angry, come Sunday…Why me? Why should I have to. Whatever happened come Monday morning, I went to Gene, I’m still not sure to this day if I knew what I was going to say."

Nichols does go on to say that after she opted to return to the show that she had no regrets and that’s something we can all be thankful for. Her role in the series and her impact on the greater cultural revolution is invaluable. There’s no telling where things go without her on the show.

Since this all happened after the first season, without her returning to the show there would have never been the Kirk/Uhura kiss. It was the first-ever interracial kiss in television history. A landmark moment.

Nichols is a pioneer and an icon but if it wasn’t for Dr. King encouraging her to stay the course, who knows what things would look like?

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