Nichelle Nichols and Don Marshall starred in a historic 1964 teleplay
It was the first teleplay written by an African-American woman to air on network television.
In 1963, Ann Flagg was earning her master's degree in theatre arts at Northwestern University while also teaching grade-school drama. An assignment in one of her college classes would turn into an opportunity to meet future TV stars Nichelle Nichols and Don Marshall and see her work broadcast to millions of people across the country.
Flagg told Jet magazine in 1964 she, "Originally wrote the play as an exercise in 'tension and economy of words, paring it down to the bare bones.'" Titled Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’, the play won first prize in the Samuel French Annual Inter-collegiate Playwriting Contest. Flagg soon received word from TV producer Joe Scully, who wanted to film the play on the CBS show Repertoire Workshop. The program was created to showcase new writing and acting talent and he felt Flagg and her script deserved to be highlighted.
In Great Getting’ Up Mornin’ Nichelle Nichols and Don Marshall play parents whose 6-year-old daughter is about to be one of the first black children allowed to attend a previously all-white school. The episode was first broadcast in Los Angeles in January of 1964 then in cities all over the country a month later.
That same year, Nichols and Marshall also starred as a couple in an episode of The Lieutenant (pictured above), the military drama created by Gene Roddenberry. The Star Trek creator would, of course, later cast Nichols as Lt. Uhura, but Marshall also made an appearance on the space series in the episode "The Galileo Seven" — not to mention his other role on the Irwin Allen adventure series Land of the Giants.
In their earthly roles as Joanne and Chris Logan, part of an exclusively African-American cast, Nichols and Marshall were an important part of a historic television first. Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’ was the first teleplay written by an African-American woman to be broadcast on television. Writer Ann Flagg was even flown out to meet the cast and work with the show’s producers and director during filming!