Friday, May 1, 2009

Star Trek & 1960s Design, 8: Free Uhura and Angela

"Radical simply means 'grasping things at the root.'"
--Angela Davis






Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) on Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles" (1967), one of the few episodes in which she got to say something more than "Hailing frequencies open, Captain."
The name Uhura comes from the Swahili word uhuru, which means "freedom."

"Libertad Para Angela Davis" ("Freedom for Angela Davis") poster from Cuba, 1970.

Nichelle Nichols writes in her autobiography Beyond Uhura that she was so frustrated with her limited role on Star Trek that she decided to quit. In a chance meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., however, he convinced her to stay on as a stereotype-breaking model for the black community.

Seems he was right. Even just sitting there, a black woman professional on a starship bridge, was a radical act. Whoopi Goldberg, for instance, has said that when she was a girl and first saw Uhura on TV, she called to her mother,
"Come quick! Come quick! There's a black lady on TV, and she ain't no maid!"
And doctor and astronaut Mae Jemison said she was inspired by Uhura to apply to NASA in 1985. She became the first African American woman to travel in space, in 1992.

I wasn't sure if anyone else thought to put these two very different kinds of revolutionaries together, but in googling them I found a knitter who polled her readers on her blog, topstitchgirl, about which of the two she should choose to create a pattern after.
Here's the link to her gorgeous purple finished Afro pattern sweater.
As always, Star Trek screencaps from


deanna said...

Uhura always seemed the smartest character, to me as a kid. I was intrigued by the episode where her memory got erased, and she had to relearn to read and so on. What an amazing, frightening thing to have happen, and yet she got right back up to speed.

fresca said...

I marvelled at that event too, Deanna--that Uhura had to relearn everything! There really are all sort of intriguing bits and pieces in the story, sometimes passed over lightly but totally amazing in themselves.