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Author: Jeffrey Harlan

Star Trek and the Civil Rights Movement

The year 1966 was a turbulent time in American history. The civil rights movement, which began in earnest in 1954, continued more than a decade later. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War continued to escalate, as President Lyndon Johnson authorized additional troops, bringing the total from 180,000 to more than 250,000, as well as the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, prompting Martin Luther King, Jr., to begin speaking out against the war as well as racial injustice. In the midst of this, an ambitious science fiction television show premiered: Star Trek.

This Week in Geek (6/15-6/21)

On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation, first issued in January 1863, was read in Texas, the most remote of the U.S. states that had rebelled in the American Civil War. The date, which has come to be known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day, and other names, is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States, and a day to honor the contributions of African Americans to the nation’s history.

This week, Geek Unified Theory will be sharing several stories to do just that. On #TrekTuesday, we will post a story about Star Trek and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. For Comic Book Wednesday, we will discuss the history of black superheroes. Thursday Game Night will feature a story about African Americans in the game industry, and SFF Friday will showcase African American science fiction and fantasy writers.

Rise of the Public Domain Superheroes

Almost immediately after Superman first appeared in 1938’s Action Comics #1, other publishers took note of the character’s instant popularity, and rushed to produce similar characters of their own, giving rise to both the term “superhero” and to an entirely new genre of speculative fiction. Many of these publishers went out of business. Others failed to provide proper copyright notices, or to renew their copyrights, as required under the copyright laws in effect at the time. The laws have changed in the intervening decades, but those older works had already fallen into what is known as the public domain.

The Bloody Road to Star Trek’s Future

The future of the human race in Star Trek is a bright one. Humanity had struggled with war, disease, and hunger, but had “pretty much wiped ‘em out,” by the mid-twenty-second century, as Charles “Trip” Tucker bragged in the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. But, as the theme song to the series made clear, “it’s been a long road, getting from there to here.” The path to the bright future of Star Trek’s Earth was a dark and bloody one.