Nichelle Nichols, the groundbreaking US actress who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series, has died at age 89, her son, Kyle Johnson, announced.
"I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” he wrote on the official uhura.com website.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away.
“Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”
A family spokesman told Agence France-Presse that Nichols died in Silver City, New Mexico, where she had been living with her son.
George Takei, who as Sulu shared the bridge with Uhura on the USS Enterprise, remembered his former co-star as “trailblazing” and “incomparable”.
“For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend,” he wrote on Twitter.
Nichols made history when by participating in one of the first interracial kisses on US television with Captain James T Kirk, played by William Shatner. Nichols told CNN in 2014 that the kiss “changed television forever”.
She drew praise from civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr, who said her role on the hit 1960s television series portrayed a black woman in a non-stereotypical role.
Nichols, who had trained in ballet and musical theatre, at one point told Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry that she wanted to quit the show to return to the theatre.
When she mentioned that to King, in a chance meeting recounted by the Hollywood Reporter: “All the smile came off his face and he said, 'You can't do that. Don't you understand, for the first time, we're seen as we should be seen? You don't have a Black role. You have an equal role.'”
AFP contributed to this report