Black Superhero History Month, Day 29 /
Women’s Superhero History Month, Day 1:
Nichelle Nichols & Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
First off, a few things here. One: I thought it fitting to end my Black Superhero History Month project with a team-up. Two: This episode was just as important for history as it was for geekdom. And three: I’m looking at doing a similar project for March—Women’s History Month—and Nichelle Nichols seemed like a great way to bridge the two worlds.
So what’s this team-up I speak of?
Well, as the story goes, after the first season of Star Trek aired, Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, was going to quit the show in order to return to theater. While at a fundraiser event during this period, the organizer came up to her and told her that someone claiming to be her biggest fan wanted to meet her. That fan? None other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When he heard she intended to quit the show, he told her she had to stay on the show. Here was one of the first major black females in popular television who was not in a stereotypically subservient role, and she was presented as smart and capable and equal to the other members of the U.S.S. Enterprise. He told her that the images and representations we see of ourselves in mass media deeply affect how we inevitably view ourselves, and seeing a character like Lieutenant Uhura on TV had a major positive effect in the black community. She went back and told series creator Gene Roddenberry that she was staying on the show, and the rest is history.