It is often said that the first interracial kiss on TV was the (involuntary) kiss between Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) and translator and communications officer Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) in the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” that was broadcast on the 22nd of November 1968 at ten PM in the evening.
This is not the case.
Sorry Captain Kirk, I know you don’t like hearing me say that on Twitter…
For clarity we’ll first have to agree on what ‘interracial’ means;
How we define ‘races’ is more complicated and differs per culture it seems.
You’ll find this discussed elsewhere in the article as well.
There had of course been interracial kisses before in Star Trek but these were between humans and aliens but for some reason those don’t count when people are talking about interracial kissing.
A lot of people seem to be obsessed with people with different skin colours kissing each other but are fine with people kissing aliens from other planets.
And nobody seems to mention the interracial kiss between two women that was broadcast in an 1966 Star Trek episode! ( Uhura kisses Nurse Chapel in episode; ‘What are little girls made of’) and Kirk himself had kissed Lt. Marlena Moreau (Eurasian heritage).
Kirk also kissed Filipino Marlena Moreau, French-Vietnamese France Nuyen and Sulu kisses Uhura her neck in earlier episodes.
But besides this, there had been other interracial kisses on TV before the kiss between Kirk and Uhura.
It was not the first interracial kiss on TV, it was not even the first interracial kiss on US TV and it was not even the first interracial kiss between humans on Star Trek.
And when is a kiss a kiss, is a peck on the cheek good enough or does only mouth on mouth action count?
The real first interracial kiss on TV, be it global, be it just in the US, is still heavily debated.
But at this moment there are a few contenders that all pre-date the Kirk-Uhura kiss.
In 1951 Lucille Ball (European ancestry) and Desi Arnaz (Cuban-American) kissed on screen in the TV-show ‘I love Lucy’.
Some people may claim that their marriage was not interracial, to some Cuban-American perhaps is close enough to European white, or their skin colours are too similar, etc.
But we have to keep in mind that we’re talking about 1950s America here, CBS and its sponsor at the time were adamantly opposed to having Lucy married to a Cuban, especially one with such a strong accent.
By law Desi was not technically someone of another race and their marriage wasn’t a problem in that respect.
Of course they both had light skin which made the kissing less controversial but back then a white woman kissing a Latino man was still a touchy subject, especially then, in the USA.
And just like the kiss in Star Trek, seeing people of different backgrounds like Desi & Lucy in TV was very important to countless people watching these shows who themselves where in mixed marriages or the result of one.
On top of that this show made many viewers move past their own prejudices, no matter what you thought about a typical American girl marrying a chap from Cuba, there was no denying that, on the screen at least, their marriage was loving and that they were a golden duo when it came to entertainment.
Dismissing this kiss is dismissing the tension there was in 1950s America regarding marriages between people of European and Cuban ancestry but also the huge impact showing this relationship had on American culture.
Either way, even if we decide not to accept this kiss as being interracial (enough), there are other contenders that were all broadcast before the infamous Star Trek episode.
The first White/Asian interracial kiss on US TV I could find was between Nobu McCarthy and Lloyd Bridges in the episode ‘Proof of Guilt’ of the show ‘Sea Hunt’, broadcast on the 16th of August 1959.
The first White/Black interracial kiss on US TV I could find was between Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior in a TV special called ‘Movin’ with Nancy’ which was broadcast on the 11th of December 1967.
But outside of the USA there had been earlier interracial kisses on TV.
In the UK in soap opera Emergency – Ward 10 an interracial kiss was exchanged between John White and Joan Hooley and broadcast on July 1964.
Although it the first time a white man kissed a black woman on TV anywhere, it was not the first interracial kiss.
On June 5th 1962 a show called ‘You in your small corner‘ which was broadcast on ITV on the 5th of June 1962 and it too showed an interracial kiss between actors Lloyd Reckord and Elizabeth MacLennan, this one is often credited as being the first interracial kiss on TV but that wasn’t.
The first actual interracial kiss ever broadcast on TV anywhere was on a show called ITV’s “(ABC) Armchair Theatre” broadcast an adaptation of Ted Willis’s play Hot Summer Night on the 1st of February 1959.
In this episode there was an interracial kiss between actors Lloyd Reckord and Andrée Melly.
Although this kiss was broadcast later, I think it deserves an honourable mention, mostly because I’m Dutch and love this song;
In April 1959 there was a kiss between actors Donald Jones and Roekie Aronds on the Dutch TV show ‘Pension Hommeles‘.
So although the UK 1959 show currently holds the title of first global interracial kiss on TV between a black and white person and the 1967 one as the first on US TV, I wouldn’t be surprised of earlier examples pop up.
And even if we don’t find earlier examples, there may have been some but unfortunately during the early days of television much of what was broadcast wasn’t recorded and even when it was recorded it sometimes was simply thrown away, deleted or something else was recorded over it.
On a side note; the Star Trek kiss also didn’t cause much of a stir, it barely got any (negative) attention at all.
Negative between brackets because it did get some positive attention, besides the cultural impact it had then and still has, the show did get a fair amount of fan mail especially because of this episode.
And we can’t underestimate the influence it had on many viewers, there is a reason this kiss has been remembered and praised for such a long time and it not being the first one doesn’t take that away.
We should not underestimate it’s huge importance to the US.
And of course it shall always be the first kiss between a black woman and a white man in space on tv.
Some people may think that correcting the Star Trek first kiss myth is devaluing this important television moment, taking away from a milestone by being pedantic.
Of course I mostly just care about the historical facts being presented but I also feel that by ignoring earlier kisses we are devaluing those historical milestones.
Although we can’t really compare the situation in 1960s America and 1950s Britain when it comes to race relations it was still a huge deal in the UK as well when a black man kissed a white woman.
History was being made and these occasions should also be properly be represented.
By only telling one story you ignore another, one that deserves to be told.
Credit where credit’s due.
Of course Hollywood achieved this milestone before television did.
The oldest one I could find was when a white man kissed a black woman as far back as 1903 in Edison short ‘what happened in the tunnel – 1903;
Of course it is a peck, but nevertheless it is a kiss and earlier than other contenders such as A Florida Enchantment (1914) (women in drag and ‘blackface’), The Greatest Thing in Life (1918) (Interracial Same-Sex Kiss), Pinky (1949) (white man passionately kissing black woman), Island in the Sun (1957) (not much of a kiss, if any), A Patch of Blue (1965) (first black man kissing a white woman in a movie) or The Ωmega Man (1971).
You may also be interested in reading the article about the claims made about the first same sex kisses on TV that you can read by clicking here.
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