Dick Gregory made us laugh. His acerbic wit combined with strong advocacy for civil rights created a unique point of view – one that often made the inequity starker. A comedian, a writer, a businessman he led a life of various pursuits, but the common thread throughout his life was his passion for standing up for what he believed in.
He marched with Martin Luther King Jr and spent more than one night in jail for his protesting. He went on hunger strikes, he ran for political office. Throughout it all he made us laugh.
The New York Times published some of his more famous jokes,
‘Segregation is not all bad,’ he would say. ‘Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?’ Or: ‘You know the definition of a Southern moderate? That’s a cat that’ll lynch you from a low tree.’ Or: ‘I heard we’ve got lots of black astronauts. Saving them for the first spaceflight to the sun.’
Some lines became classics, like the one about a restaurant waitress in the segregated South who told him, ‘We don’t serve colored people here,’ to which Mr. Gregory replied: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Just bring me a whole fried chicken.’ Lunch-counter sit-ins, central to the early civil rights protests, did not always work out as planned. ‘I sat in at a lunch counter for nine months,’ he said. ‘When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.’
Dick Gregory was 84 years of age when he passed away.