This Day in Black History: Oct. 12, 1932

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 21:  Comedian and Social Activist Dick Gregory speaks onstage at the Independent Lens 'Soul Food Junkies' panel during day 1 of the PBS portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 21, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

This Day in Black History: Oct. 12, 1932

Comedian and activist Dick Gregory was born on Oct. 12, 1932.

Published October 12, 2014

What better way to talk about political and racial issues in American than through comedic stand-up? Activist and comedian Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory transitioned his comedic background into a versatile career, which included scientific research, activism for civil rights and other human injustices, and politics. 

Gregory was born on Oct. 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Missouri. He discovered his passion for comedy at an early age when he was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1954. It was after winning several Army talent shows that he began to develop his social satire, which changed the way white Americans perceived African-American comedians.

He hit the comedy scene in 1961 when Hugh Hefner asked Gregory to take over for a white comedian at the Chicago’s Playboy Club. Although he joked about racial tensions on stage, he was an activist for civil rights off stage. In response to published allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) supplied cocaine to predominantly African-American areas in Los Angeles, Gregory joined a protest at the CIA headquarters and was arrested. He also was one of the first modern spokespersons to suggest that the Census Bureau undercounts minorities, particularly in large cities.

Activism led Gregory to get involved with politics. He ran for president of the United States in 1968, as part of the Freedom and Peace Party. He lost and later published his book, Write Me In, about his presidential campaign. In addition to being a comedian, politician and civil rights activist, Gregory was also a feminist. In 1978, he joined Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Margaret Heckler, Barbara Mikulski and original suffragists to lead the National ERA March for Ratification and Extension.

Gregory is a pillar in the African-American community for his strong sense of social justice, uncanny ability to find humor in serious issues and for his autobiography, Nigger, published in 1963, which became the number one best-selling book in America.

BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Written by Dominique Zonyéé


Latest in news