Dick Gregory, comedian and civil rights activist, has died at age 84

Dick Gregory, comedian, civil rights activist, and St. Louis native, has died at age 84. One of Gregory’s first actions was to protest conditions in Sumner High School in 1951 when he was a senior there. He went on to attend Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) and then go on to great acclaim as a ground-breaking comedian who used humor and satire to challenge racism and white supremacist ideology.

Herman Hiller, World Telegram staff photographer – Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.

Richard Pryor said, “Dick Gregory was the greatest, and he was the first. Somebody had to break down that door.”

At the same time he was working as a comedian he also participated in many civil rights campaigns. The Film and Media Archive holds several  film clips of Gregory that are part of the Henry Hampton Collection’s Eyes on the Prize series. The breadth and depth of his involvement in the civil rights movement is shown through his appearance in footage about the Birmingham Children’s Crusade in 1963, footage of Martin Luther King and Dick Gregory commenting on race riots in 1967, and Lena Horne and Dick Gregory greeted by Medgar Evers in Jackson, MS in 1963, and many more clips that can be searched via the Film & Media Archives’ online catalog.

For more information, please contact Washington University Libraries Special Collections.

About the author

Reference and Outreach Supervisor in Special Collections.