Gregory, Dick

Gregory, Dick

(Richard Claxton Gregory), 1932–2017, African-American civil-rights activist and comedian, b. St. Louis, Mo. A biting satirist who used the struggle for civil rights and other topical material in his performances, he became enormously successful in the early 1960s, performing, making recordings, and writing the first of several books; he was an influence on such black comedians as Bill CosbyCosby, Bill
(William Henry Cosby, Jr.) , 1937–, American actor and comedian, b. Philadelphia. He became known as a comedian and was subsequently the first African-American actor to star in a dramatic series on television (I Spy, 1965–68).
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 and Richard PryorPryor, Richard,
1940–2005, American comedian, b. Peoria, Ill. His iconoclastic, wildly inventive, and racially explosive comic style was expressed in language that was often crude and frequently brilliant.
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. At the same time he was an active participant in the civil-rights movement, and was arrested several times. His political activities increased; he ran for mayor of Chicago (1966) and U.S. president (1968), and was active in the anti–Vietnam War movement. Largely abandoning comedy during the 1970s, he preached nonviolence and protested injustices in a series of fasts. Becoming a healthy eating advocate and a vegetarian, he founded a weight-loss company. Gregory continued to perform into the 21st cent. Among his books are From the Back of the Bus (1962), Write Me In (1968), Dick Gregory's Political Primer (1971), and Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat (1983).


See his memoir, Callus on My Soul (2000); autobiographies, nigger (with R. Lipsyte, 1964) and Up from Nigger (1976).

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Gregory, (Richard Claxton) Dick

(1932–  ) comedian, civil rights activist, nutritionist; born in St. Louis, Mo. Known for his ground-breaking use of socially conscious racial humor, Gregory overcame his origins in extreme poverty to become the first African-American comedian to perform for white audiences. After attending Southern Illinois University on an athletic scholarship and serving in the U.S. Army (1953–56), he rose to national prominence at the Chicago Playboy Club (1961). Throughout the 1960s his fame as a civil rights activist and nightclub performer made his name synonymous with progressive social and political causes. He ran in Chicago's mayoral race (1966) and for the U.S. presidency (1968) to publicize human rights issues. Embracing vegetarianism through his commitment to nonviolence, he became a radical nutritionist and nutritional proselytizer and founded Dick Gregory Health Enterprises (1984). Famous for using fasts and marathons as activist tools, his many popular records and writings include Nigger: An Autobiography (1964, 1970).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.