I have no desire to trivialize Martin Luther King, Jr on this holiday in his honor. His contributions to the annals of humanity are vast and great and far beyond my abilities to explain or encapsulate. So I only offer, today, this one anecdote of which I’ve written before (during Women’s History Month a few years back).
Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek. Her casting, a black woman as an officer on a star ship in the future, was no small thing (credit series creator Gene Roddenberry for that) but, after the first season of the show, the actress tired of having little to do and little to say beyond “hailing frequencies open.” She had also been offered a Broadway role. Nichols determined to leave the show and informed Roddenberry of her decision in a letter.
At an event she remembers now as being an anti-Vietnam War Rally, Nichols met Dr. King and shared with him her decision. King dissuaded her from leaving Star Trek pointing out that her performance as Uhura allowed audiences to see black people as they should be seen.
Nichols rescinded her resignation.
You can read a wonderful account of this story (from comicbookresources.com HERE).
Though this is not Dr. King’s greatest contribution to American history, it should not be overlooked too readily. It is impossible to count the number of people inspired by Nichelle Nichols’ role as Uhura.