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How Dr. King Changed The Course Of Star Trek History

on Thursday, Jan. 17th

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stanning Nichelle Nichols, was instrumental in ensuring that the actress continued to play Lt. Uhura on Star Trek just as she was considering leaving television for Broadway.

This courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk podcast, which re-published its archived conversation with Nichols this week in honor of Dr. King’s birthday. In the episode, Tyson talks to Nichols about her groundbreaking role, and her talents in dancing, writing, and singing (which she apparently did on Star Trek’s first season) that left her longing to return to back to the stage around 1966. That’s when she met Dr. King at a Beverly Hills fundraiser for the NAACP.

As she tells Tyson, a promoter at the event approached Nichols to say that her “greatest fan” wanted to meet her. As she sat waiting for the eager Trekkie, she looked across the room and saw Dr. King beaming at her.  “And I remember saying to myself, ‘Whoever this little Trekker is, they’re going to have to wait, because this is my leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, walking toward me with a smile on his face.’ ”

Then, King put his hand out and said, “..Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan.”

He told Nichols how important her role was, not least of all because until then, black people hadn’t been depicted in anyone’s vision of the future. You can hear the rest on this week’s Star Talk.

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