Nichelle Nichols

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Although she is perhaps best-known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in the '60s television series Star Trek and the resulting string of Star Trek movies, Nichelle Nichols also forged a successful career…
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Although she is perhaps best-known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in the '60s television series Star Trek and the resulting string of Star Trek movies, Nichelle Nichols also forged a successful career as a singer when she toured with both Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington across two continents. She has a number of recordings to her credit, and many of them are tied in to the sci-fi series. Included in her discography are the 1967 Epic release Down to Earth, the 1986 R-Way release Uhura Sings, and GNP Crescendo's Out of This World, from 1995. Nichols is also featured on Sultry Ladies, a 1996 Sony compilation, as well as on a good number of related Star Trek releases, including Sony's Star Trek: 20th Anniversary Collectors' Edition Soundtrack, issued in 1999.

Out of This World includes "Gene," a song Nichols sang in honor of Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek. He shared a personal relationship with the actress/singer, which she wrote about in Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, an autobiography published in 1994. Roddenberry was also the producer of a police drama called The Lieutenant, a 1963 television program that Nichols appeared in three years before Star Trek made its first appearance. In addition, the album features Nichols singing the theme from Star Trek.

Nichols, a black actress who broke many color barriers and faced instances of racial prejudice on the job, was born and raised in black-governed Robbins, IL. The great-granddaughter of a slave, she started dancing and singing professionally when she was 14 years old, and years of nightclub work followed. She married for the first time in 1951, while she was still in her teens. Her husband, who was more than a decade older, was a dancer. He ran out less than six months later, and a pregnant Nichols forged on alone to become a single parent to her son. The actress/singer wed a second time in 1968, but this marriage dissolved within several years. In addition to her autobiography, Nichols also wrote Saturn's Children, a 1995 science fiction novel. For about a decade through 1987, she worked with NASA in the recruiting of minority astronauts, among them Dr. Mae Jemison.