Was Martin Luther King a Trekkie?

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I was doing some editing work for our next magazine this weekend (it's our annual 10 Issue!), when I read through Mark Juddery's fascinating piece on 10 TV Shows that Changed the World. And while a ton of the entries were pretty intriguing ("Dallas" made the list for helping to knock off a dictator!), I was particularly impressed by his entry on "Star Trek"—which I figured would just be about how it influenced inventors or something. It was far more intriguing than that, though.

"Star Trek" was also an inspiration to minorities and women, not just tech junkies. Lieutenant Uhura, played by African-American jazz singer Nichelle Nichols, showed audiences that black women could be senior officers and hold positions of power. In fact, when Nichols contemplated quitting the series during its first year, she was persuaded to keep the role by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, "don't you realize how important your character is?" Years later, women ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, cited Lieutenant Uhura as a major inspiration in their careers. Nichols even spent time working for NASA on an astronaut-recruitment program—an initiative that roped in such people as Sally Ride and Guy Bluford, the first American woman and African-American in space, respectively.

Of course, the article has to go through the editing process (to our fact checkers and copy editors), but I thought the Martin Luther King bit, in particular, was too interesting not to post about. I had no idea the show was influencing anyone other than my bizarre next door neighbor.

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July 31, 2006 - 6:23am
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