Dalton, Angela

To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Lauren Semmer. During the struggles of the civil rights movement, one weekly image on ­America's television screens was seen as a huge step in advancing Black representation: a Black woman serving as communications director on the starship Enterprise. Actress Nichelle Nichols (1932–2022) brought the character of Lieutenant Uhura to life on Star Trek, the popular science-fiction series that debuted in 1966. When series creator Gene ­Roddenberry offered Nichols the role, she helped create her character's backstory and came up with the name Uhura (derived from the Swahili word for freedom). Dalton makes clear that despite Nichols's professional successes, racism and bigotry were constants in her life and career, including on the set of Star Trek. Nichols was so discouraged that at one point she planned to quit but was persuaded to stay by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people." Semmer's digital illustrations help reinforce the narrative; one double-page spread displays an assortment of televisions, one of them showing Uhura onboard the ­Enterprise, others depicting scenes of real-life racial unrest. An epilogue-like "Beyond Star Trek" and an author's note round out this ­appreciative tribute.


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