The comedian and prominent civil rights activist Dick Gregory has died, aged 84.
Gregory rose to fame in the 1960s, where he became known for attacking racism during his stand-up comedy routines. He was one of the first African-American comedians to regularly perform in front of white audiences, and became the first black performer to be interviewed on The Tonight Show.
The comedian was known for his no-holds-barred comedic style, with his jokes often satirising racism and civil injustice. One early joke of Gregory’s saw him mock the colour bar of the pre-civil rights era:
“Last time I was down [in the] South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve coloured people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right. I don’t eat coloured people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.'”
Gregory utilised his fame to become a prominent civil rights activist, becoming friends with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, marching in Selma, and becoming a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.
Gregory passed away yesterday (August 19) from an undisclosed illness at a hospital in Washington D.C. His son Christian confirmed the news in a tribute Instagram post, which you can see below.
View this post on Instagram
It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time. More details will be released over the next few days – Christian Gregory
John Legend led the tributes to Gregory, praising the comedian for leading “an amazing, revolutionary life.” See a selection of tributes to Gregory below.
Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice. RIP
— John Legend (@johnlegend) August 20, 2017
RIP Dick Gregory, A 5 Star General in The War for Human Rights!! Glad to have been in your sphere.
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 20, 2017
Comedian Dick Gregory always told it like it is. Our laughter was fuel to fight for justice in an unjust world. RIP 1932-2017 pic.twitter.com/wpbdEkvny1
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 20, 2017
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) August 20, 2017
RIP Dick Gregory. Insightful comedian and civil rights hero.
— Tom Morello (@tmorello) August 20, 2017
RIP to the Great Dick Gregory 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/e8YGajQfzn
— Big Boi (@BigBoi) August 20, 2017
Gregory is survived by his wife Lillian, who he married in 1959, and their 10 children.