(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 Cosby
and Richard Pryor
. 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
See his memoir, Callus on My Soul (2000); autobiographies, nigger (with R. Lipsyte, 1964) and Up from Nigger (1976).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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