Dick Gregory, the comedian and civil rights activist whose social satire helped change the way African Americans were perceived in the 1960s, will speak at University of Lynchburg at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Memorial Ballroom of Hall Campus Center as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
“An Evening with Dick Gregory” will focus on his activism and the importance of student activism today. The event is sponsored by LC’s Office of Multicultural Access and Commuter Services and the Student Government Association.
Gregory, now 74, entered the national comedy scene in 1961 when Chicago’s Playboy Club booked him as a replacement for a white comedian. By 1962, Gregory had become a nationally known headline performer in nightclubs and on television.
Gregory’s autobiography, Nigger, was published in 1963 and became the number one best-selling book in America. Over the decades, it has sold more than seven million copies.
From an early age, Gregory demonstrated a strong sense of social justice. While a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis he led a March protesting segregated schools. Later, he took part in the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw attention to segregation and disfranchisement. When local Mississippi governments stopped distributing federal food surpluses to poor blacks in areas where black voter registration was encouraged, Gregory chartered a plane to bring in several tons of food.
As the 1960s progressed, Gregory devoted more time to social issues. He participated in marches and parades to support a range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger and drug abuse. Gregory fasted in protest more than 60 times, including once in Iran when he urged the Ayatollah Khomeini to release American embassy hostages. Gregory weighed only 97 pounds after the fast.
Gregory ran for president in 1968 as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party and received 1.5 million votes.
In 1996, Gregory returned to the stage in his critically acclaimed one-man show, Dick Gregory Live! His most recent book, Callus On My Soul, (Longstreet Press, Atlanta) became a best-seller within weeks of publication and updates his earlier autobiography.
Admission is free but by ticket only. A limited number of tickets will be available for the public at 9 a.m. on January 16 on a first-come, first-served basis (limit two per person) at the Campus Information Center on the first floor of Hall Campus Center. No phone orders, please. For information, call 434.544.8254.