In Memoriam: Dick Gregory.

PositionIn memoriam

Richard Claxton Gregory [Dick Gregory] (1932-2017) was an African-American comedian, civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur, conspiracy theorist, and occasional actor. During the turbulent 1960s, he became a pioneer in stand-up comedy for his "no-holds-barred" sets, in which he mocked bigotry and racism. He performed primarily to Black audiences at segregated clubs until 1961, when he became the first Black comedian to successfully cross over to White audiences, appearing on television and putting out comedy record albums. He was at the forefront of political activism in the 1960s, when he protested the Vietnam War and racial injustice. His participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s is well documented, as are his personal relationships with such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, as well as legions of politicians, performers, and activists. He was arrested multiple times and went on many hunger strikes. An advocate of nonviolence, Gregory uses fasting, prayer, and other peaceful means to make his point. He is acclaimed for his mobilizations for social change, his Bahamian diet, his comedy career, and his anti-drug activities. Gregory and his wife, Lillian Smith, have been married for 50 years and are the parents of 10 children.

He is author of Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies (2017), a collection of thoughtful, provocative essays, the author charts the complex and often obscured history of the African American experience, and in an unapologetically candid voice, he moves from African ancestry and surviving the Middle Passage to the creation of the Jheri Curl, the enjoyment of bacon and everything pig, the headline-making shootings of Black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement; and retrospectively: From the Back of the Bus (1962); Nigger: An Autobiography [written with Robert Lipsyte and E.P. Dutton] (1964); What's Happening? (1965); Write Me In! (1968), The Shadow that Scares Me [editor James R. McGraw] (1968); No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History (1971); Dick Gregory's Political Primer (1972); Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' With Mother Nature (1973); Dick Gregory's Bible Tales, With Commentary [with editor James R. McGraw] (1974); Up From Nigger [with James R. McGraw] (1976); Code Name "Zorro": The Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. [with Mark Lane] (1977)...

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