Martin Luther King, Jr. actually did care about Star Trek.
He had a conversation with Nichelle Nichols about her intention to quit the show to do stage work because her role on the show wasn’t very big. He told her that she had to stay on the show because her role had immense importance.
She was an officer on the bridge of a starship who just happened to be a black woman. He knew that her mere presence as a trusted and vital part of the operation would be a tremendous inspiration to black people and everyone who cared about equality in those tumultuous times, especially because no one made any reference to her race. And sure enough, Nichelle met and got mail from countless people telling her that she gave them hope for the future, even when present life got them down.
So we have him to thank for our ability to see 79 episodes with Nichelle’s legs in them.
- The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968.
- After strong opposition by Sen. Jesse Helms, President Reagan and Sen. John McCain, Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986.
- At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It wasn’t officially observed in all 50 states until 2000.
- There are still businesses, schools and towns that refuse to recognize today as a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy and his assassination.