Ladies I Love: U is for Lieutenant Uhura, a True Star!

a_burning_trekkie__silver_by_schematization-d4rydciCan you guess what the most challenging letter for me in the A to Z Challenge has been?  Not X, not Q, not V, not even Z…but U.  However, when I thought about all the Ladies I Love and Lieutenant Uhura crossed my mind, I knew she was just the right woman for this tough letter!  That is because Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek, played by Nichelle Nichols, was one tough lady!

Lieutenant Uhura served as a communications officer under Captain Kirk on the USS Enterprise during the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966 – 1969.  Uhura moved up the Starfleet ranks throughout the movie franchise, making the rank of commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Nichelle Nichols portrayed Uhura throughout the series, as well as in all the Star Trek movies except for the last two, in which Zoë Saldana played a younger Uhura.  Uhura never took a back seat in the adventures of the Enterprise, and was often a key character in story lines, very much an equal among her Star Trek peers.

Uhura_and_Kirk_kissOne of the most remarkable things about Uhura’s character was that she was one of the FIRST African American women on TV to play a role that didn’t have anything to do with being a servant.  This was a ground-breaking character, and having an African American woman in a position of equality definitely stirred the pot on occasion.  For example, in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”, Uhura famously kissed Captain Kirk (ok, it was a forced kiss because she was under the influence of alien telekinesis…but still…) in a scene that is largely cited as one of the first inter-racial kisses aired on US television.

Apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fan of the show, and even let his children watch it, in part because of Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura’s character.  Nichelle actually wanted to quit the show after the first year to pursue a career on broadway, but was told by Dr. King that she “could not give up because she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country, as well as for other children who would see blacks appearing as equals.”  It’s a good thing she didn’t quit, because she DID inspire many to achieve success, including former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who said she was encouraged by Nichelle’s Uhura character.

MLK convo

Yes, Uhura was one smokin’ hot lady.  But she was also a star.  In Swahili, her character’s first name, Nyota, means “star”, and Uhuru means “freedom”.  With a name like that, how could Uhura achieve anything but success?  Set your phasers to “stunning”!

19 thoughts on “Ladies I Love: U is for Lieutenant Uhura, a True Star!

  1. I’ve never been a fan of Star Trek — just not a sci fi person, I guess. But I’ve always been aware of the cultural influence of this show. I think you hit a winner with “U.”
    Wendy at Jollett Etc.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Wendy! I’m not really a sci-fi person either, although I did watch quite a bit of the original Star Trek series when I was younger. I liked the camp aspect of it, I think, more than the sci-fi aspect. But more important was that it had a very progressive cultural message for its time. I wasn’t so much aware of that when I was a kid, but I learned a lot in putting this post together! 😀

  2. Sometimes the equality statement is far stronger when there isn’t such a fanfare made, and the star quality or expertise is truly recognized for what it is, and not originally tinged by the race component. She has such strength in her facial features and physical carriage before we even get to her roles and acting ability. She’s a perfect choice in your collection of ladies to love.

    • True that, Sammy! I think that when we just begin to accept people for who they are (not *because* they are a certain race or gender), that’s when real progress is made. Of course, we had to take steps to get to that point. I agree that the character of Uhura, and Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of that character, did a lot to promote issues of equality by simply showing a strong, intelligent and reliable woman in main-stream media 😀

  3. Wow! Very enlightening post. A TV character inspiring someone to be a real astronaut is terrific!

    My husband has been a Star Trek fan ever since he was a kid, and even today, he has got my 4 year old girl involved in the series! He isn’t a big fan of the movies though.

    • Hi Rama! Yeah, for some reason, I never really enjoyed the movies, either. I think I liked the campiness of the original series! And what 4 year old wouldn’t love a fuzzy tribble??? Thanks for stopping by 😀

  4. Although I’m not a sci-fi buff, there were times I watched Star Trek and remember this beautiful,talented actress. She was a strong influence and role model to blacks, as Dr. King said. He was right to encourage Nichelle Nichols not to quit. Star Trek was about exploring new worlds, races and cultures, while ensuring peace and justice were maintained in the galaxy. This was the perfect role for her, as a black actress, and she succeeded.

    • I really agree with you, Michelle! This was a perfect role for Nichelle Nichols and I can’t imagine anyone better than her for it. Star Trek was ahead of its time in envisioning a future that didn’t have racisim – you put it best by saying it was about exploring new worlds! Thanks for stopping by again! 😉

    • Yes, thanks Jolie! So many people just love that show, and it was a great platform to show that people of all races and cultures can work and exist in peace! 🙂

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