I found this wonderful story on Dangerous Minds and thought readers of Daily Kos would enjoy this anecdote about the time Nichelle Nichols, better known as Uhura on the original Star Trek, met her biggest fan.
I was going to leave Star Trek, and [creator] Gene Roddenberry says, “You can’t do that. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to achieve? Take the weekend and think about it.” He took the resignation and stuck it in his desk drawer.God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, indeed. He inspired and continues to inspire so many people in so many ways. Convincing Nichelle Nichols to continue in her groundbreaking role as Uhura is among the most charming I've had the pleasure of reading.
As fate would have it, I was to be a celebrity guest at, I believe, it was an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills. I had just been taken to the dais, when the organizer came over and said, “Ms. Nichols, there’s someone here who said he is your biggest fan and he really wants to meet you.”
I stand up and turn and I’m looking for a young Star Trek fan. Instead, is this face the world knows. I remember thinking, “Whoever that fan is, is going to have to wait because Dr. Martin Luther King, my leader, is walking toward me, with a beautiful smile on his face.” Then this man says “Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best fan, your greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans. We admire you greatly. And the manner in which you’ve created this role has dignity.”
I said “Dr. King, thank you so much. I really am going to miss my co-stars.” He said, dead serious, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I’m leaving Star Trek,” He said, “You cannot. You cannot!”
I was taken aback. He said, “Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now.”
I could say nothing, I just stood there realizing every word that he was saying was the truth. He said, “Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave, that door can be closed because, you see, your role is not a Black role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything, including an alien.”
At that moment, the world tilted for me. I knew then that I was something else and that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, everything that Dr. King had said: The world sees us for the first time as we should be seen.
Come Monday morning, I went to Gene. He’s sitting behind that same dang desk. I told him what happened, and I said, “If you still want me to stay, I’ll stay. I have to.” He looked at me, and said, “God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, somebody knows where I am coming from.” I said, “That’s what he said.” And my life’s never been the same since, and I’ve never looked back. I never regretted it, because I understood the universe, that universal mind, had somehow put me there, and we have choices. Are we going to walk down this road or the other? It was the right road for me.
In an episode that aired in November of 1968 titled "Plato's Stepchildren", Nichols famously kissed actor William Shatner. It is widely believed to be the first interracial kiss on American television. Thirty eight years later, during a roast of William Shatner on Comedy Central, Nichols jokingly said to Shatner "Let's make TV history again ... and you can kiss my black ass!" All in good fun, of course.
Star Trek was groundbreaking in many ways, as this excerpt from wikipedia highlights.
Many of the conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek represent allegories of contemporary cultural realities. Star Trek: The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s just as later spin-offs have reflected issues of their respective decades. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, and the role of technology. Roddenberry stated: By creating a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."By casting Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, an integral cast member that rose above stereotyping race, Roddenberry was years ahead of the rest of the nation. Dr. King certainly understood this as he himself was going boldly where no man had gone before.