Before Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and D.L. Hughley, there was Dick Gregory. The St. Louis, Mo. native spent more than 50 years making people laugh and think all at once, using stand-up comedy to give insight on race, politics, and social issues. Gregory didn't only inspire several generations of comedy that would proceed him - he also became one of the most respected minds on race in the country, dropping gems that still resonate years later. He died this past weekend at age 84, but he leaves behind a mighty legacy.
To celebrate the life of a legendary soul, here are ten times Dick Gregory used comedy to tackle racism.
1) "We tried to integrate a restaurant, and they said, 'We don't serve colored folk here,' and I said, 'Well, I don't eat colored folk nowhere. Bring me some pork chops.' And then Ku Klux Klan come in, and the woman say, 'We don't have no pork chops,' so I say, 'Well, bring me a whole fried chicken.' And then the Klan walked up to me when they put that whole fried chicken in front of me, and they say, 'Whatever you do to that chicken, boy, we're going to do to you.' So I opened up its legs and kissed it in the rump and tell you all, 'Be my guest.'" [Callus On My Soul, 2003]
2) " And we have a lot of racial prejudice up north, but we're so clever with it. Take my hometown, Chicago. I mean, you can't see it just going in there. Well, negroes in Chicago move into one large area and it looks like we might control the vote, they don't say anything to us. They have a slum clearance. On the west coast, they call it freeways." [Hungry I Club in San Francisco, 1960's]
3) "Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind paying my income tax if I knew it wasn't going to a racist country."
4) "I meet so many young folks who say, 'If I got to go and die in a war at 18, I want the right to vote at 18.' Don't be no damn fool. You got to die at 18, you better fight to get the right to vote at 17."
5) "I was learning that just being a Negro doesn't qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine."
6) "And we love to dance, especially that new one called the Civil War Twist. The Northern part of you stands still while the Southern part tries to secede."
7) " I don't know why America always thinks she has to run all around the world forcing people to take our way of governance at the barrel of a gun. When you've got something really good, you don't have to force it on people. They will steal it."
8) "If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they'd have to bring out the tanks to control you."
9) "It was an unwritten law that black comics were not permitted to work white nightclubs. You could sing and you could dance, but you couldn't stand flat-footed and talk; that was a no-no."
10) "We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre."