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Monday, December 6, 2021

Did You Know Comedian and Activist Dick Gregory Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: October 12th

From growing up in poverty to becoming a trailblazing comedian and activist, Dick Gregory spent more than five decades using his voice to uplift and entertain the Black community. He was a multi-faceted talent who used his unique sense of humor to tackle issues of race relations. Here are five things to know about the late Dick Gregory!

  1. Before The Fame. Richard Claxton Gregory was born on October 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the second oldest out of the six Gregory children. As a child, he discovered the power of comedy when he used it as a tool to ward off bullies. In addition to his comedic abilities, Dick Gregory was also a high school track star and got accepted into Southern Illinois University. In 1954, he was drafted into the Army and eventually became part of the Army’s entertainment division.
  1. Becoming A Comedy Headliner. After returning home from the army, Dick Gregory took time to perfect his craft and began working at different clubs throughout Chicago’s comedy circuit. However, it wasn’t until 1961 that he received his big break when he was invited by Hugh Hefner to perform at the Playboy Club in Chicago. The room was filled with a white audience, but he managed to leave them impressed. His performance was a success and it paved the way for him to become the first African-American guest to appear on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar.
  1. The Intersection Of Activism And Comedy. Dick Gregory showed promise as an activist from an early age. He started out protesting segregated schools and over the course of his life, he found himself at the forefront of civil rights. His activism led to several arrests and he also had a first-hand encounter with police brutality when he was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama. Dick Gregory even developed connections with civil rights figures such as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s.
  1. Dick Gregory For President. Dick Gregory took political activism to a new level when he made the decision to run for office. His first attempt came in 1967 when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Chicago against Richard Daley. He continued his pursuit for office the following year. Dick Gregory ran for U.S. president as a write-in candidate with the Peace and Freedom Party and received 50,000 write-in votes.
  1. Lasting Legacy And Achievements.Whether he was on stage performing or championing for the advancement of people of color, the legacy of Dick Gregory served as an inspiration for other comedians such as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. He made a commitment to civil rights, even sacrificing his hunger and health for the cause. The Grammy-nominated comedian received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on February 2, 2015.

He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1999, but refused chemotherapy and opted for alternative treatments. Fortunately, the cancer went into remission. He spent his later years promoting healthy living, lecturing at universities and continuing his activist efforts. Dick Gregory died on August 19, 2017. 

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