Jonita Davis wrote an insightful piece for YES! Magazine all about a century-long battle by Black actresses to get their dues in sci-fi:
Black women have long been fixtures in science fiction film and television. In the 20th century, they largely appeared in background roles as maids, cooks, sex workers, or dancers. Then, the 21st century ushered in high-profile roles like Halle Berry’s Storm, Danai Gurira’s Michonne, Javicia Leslie’s Batwoman, and so many more. Most recently, Marvel’s Black Panther featured numerous roles for powerful Black women characters and was wildly successful, making a billion dollars in 2018. But Hollywood didn’t decide on its own to portray Black women as heroes and women of power. The roles, their depictions, and even the credit for the parts were the result of more than 80 years of Black-led struggle and strategy. During that time, Black women had to endure both racism and misogyny on set, both of which are still prevalent in the industry.
Davis covers some of the greats, from Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura in Star Trek to Gloria Foster, and later Mary Alice, as Oracle in the The Matrix series (“All of these characters are beloved despite the toxicity of the mammy and Magical Negro tropes”).