Monmouth College remembers Dick Gregory
MONMOUTH, Ill. — In early May 1968, in the midst of heated racial unrest following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., social activist and comedian Dick Gregory headlined a Black Power Conference at Monmouth College that also included 1961 Freedom Ride organizer James Farmer and African-American journalist William Worthy.
Gregory died Saturday at age 84.
Addressing a mostly white audience of 1,500 in the Monmouth College gymnasium, Gregory told students that they must solve the racial problems or face the possibility of a government takeover, instigated by the CIA, FBI and the military.
“If you have riots in big cities on election day,” he said, “they would throw out the results. The 1964 election may well have been the last election in the country.”
Gregory, who would later become known for his extreme hunger strikes in protest of such issues as war and police brutality, wore green coveralls and a shaggy haircut, having pledged not to shave, cut his hair or smoke until the Vietnam War had ended.
“What the Negro wants,” he told the audience, “is not new civil rights laws, but implementation of the Constitution. We’re not interested in integration. We want liberation.”
During a two-hour speech that mixed humor with warnings about a black revolution, Gregory received repeated applause.