Today we mourn the loss of Dick Gregory, who passed away on August 19. Gregory was a staunch civil rights activist who pioneered a new age in comedy.
Gregory’s star was rising quickly in 1961, when the Post profiled him in our “People on the Way Up” feature. At a time when many white Americans felt threatened by the messages of militant activists who were starting to emerge from the black community, Gregory took advantage of this tension to get across his message for racial equality. He was something fresh, the first wave of edgy comedians who challenged audiences. Few other comedians in the U.S. could balance the outrageous with the ridiculous, as in his line, “I sat at a lunch counter for nine months; they finally integrated and didn’t have what I wanted.”
It was the start of Gregory’s long career of calling out racism with punchlines.
Seven years later, he had become even more of an activist. In “Uncle Tom Is Dead,” his editorial in the August 24, 1968, issue of the Post, he explained the rising black militancy that America was seeing in 1968. But for all his outrage, he never lost touch of the need to keep communicating.