See Nichelle Nichols In Rare Uhura Footage Just Released By The Smithsonian
Some rare footage of the late Nichelle Nichols as Star Trek's Uhura was just released by a rather unlikely source.
Nichelle Nichols, who sadly passed away at the age of 89 on July 31st, was a trailblazer. Her breakout role as Lt. Uhura in the original series of Star Trek paved the way for representation on American television for people of color as well as empowering women to travel into space. Now, Movieweb reports that to showcase how profound Nichols’ impact was on television and wider culture, The Smithsonian museum has released footage of What’s In it for Me? It is a short film produced by Nichols’ company Women in Motion for the National Air and Space Museum, the footage can be seen below.
In the footage, Nichelle Nichols appears as her iconic character Lt. Uhura and is beamed back in time to the Smithsonian, whereupon she meets a young girl who gives her a tour of the museum. At the end of the footage, the young girl asks Uhura whether she will ever be able to follow in the Liutenenat’s footsteps as a woman traveling in space. Nichols’ Uhura responds by singing an inspirational song to the young girl, before asking Scotty to beam her back aboard the USS Enterprise.
Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek season is iconic for a number of reasons, with one of them being the diversity amongst its cast members. Nichelle Nichols became the first black woman to earn a recurring role in an American television series when she was cast as Lt. Uhura and was also a part of American television’s first interracial kiss.
But her impact spread wider than just television, as the Smithsonian footage above proves. In the late seventies, Nichols encouraged NASA to focus on hiring more women into its program and the agency worked with Nichols’ Women in Motion Inc. to work on a female recruitment drive. The effects of Nichols’ time working alongside NASA were profound and Florida Today reported that the net result was 8000 applicants. Among them was Sally Ride, who was the first American woman to go into space, and Guion Bluford, America’s first Black astronaut.
Perhaps the most profound part of Nichelle Nichols’ legacy is how she helped inspire the first African-American woman to travel into space. According to Slashfilm, Mae Jemison, the astronaut who made the historic trip, cites Nichelle Nichols as her inspiration for pursuing a career as an astronaut. In a lovely turn of fate, both Jemison and Star Trek’s fates intertwined when the former appeared in a brief cameo on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Remarkably Jemison became the first astronaut to feature in a Star Trek show.
The legacy that has been left behind by Nichelle Nichols, made evident by her Smithsonian promotional film, her campaign to get women into NASA and inspire the next generation of female astronauts just goes to show how important representation in television is. To the casual observer, Star Trek appears to be just a show that science fiction fans adored and one that typifies the genre, but thanks to cast members like Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura, it is so much more than that.