45 years ago, while the nation was undergoing social change, Gene Roddenberry introduced us to a racially diverse starship crew in a future where equality was real.
A few months ago, while visiting the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, I listened to a "oral history" interview of Nichelle Nichols who played Nyota Uhura in Star Trek. In the interview, she shared a story of when she met a very important "Trekkie"--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
She had provided Gene Roddenberry notice of her intent to resign from the cast of Star Trek. Roddenberry asked Nichelle to think it over and come back to him after the weekend.
Nichelle met Dr. King, Jr. that weekend at an event. She stated that Dr. King, Jr. told her how excited he was that she was on the show and how he and his wife let their children stay up late to watch Star Trek because of her.
When Nichelle shared her plans to leave the show, she said that his grin of excitement disappeared and turned serious. According to Nichelle, Dr. King, Jr. told her she couldn't leave the show because she provided an example of what people are capable of becoming despite color. Nichelle continued as Uhura through the original series as well as the animated series and films.
Roddenberry provided a nation struggling to adapt to racial integration with an image of our world in the 23rd century where individuals, regardless of color, work together to resolve a problem.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_Civil_Rights_Movement_(1955%E2%80%931968); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uhura; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nichelle_Nichols
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