History | August 20, 2017 12:29 pm

Comedian and Activist Dick Gregory Dead at 84

Gregory broke through racial barriers in the 1960s.

Dick Gregory Dead at 84
Dick Gregory attends the Roger Ebert Memorial Tribute at Chicago Theatre on April 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

Dick Gregory, one of the first African-American comedians to perform at white comedy clubs in the 1960s, has died at the age of 84. The comedian used his acts to skewer racial injustice and segregation.

According to CNN, an event Gregory was planning to attend was rescheduled when he was hospitalized recently. He died in Washington, D.C. Few other details have been released by his family.

Mostly performing at comedy clubs with predominantly black audiences, Gregory was relatively unknown before 1961 when he filled in for comedian Irwin Corey at the prominent Playboy Club in Chicago, according to CNN. After winning over a white audience that night, the Playboy Club offered Gregory a three-year contract.

His career took off from there. Gregory appeared on TV, released comedy albums, and wrote several books including one that analyzed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. While the comedian’s views on racial injustice were infused into his acts, Gregory marched in numerous protests supporting civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War. CNN reports he was arrested a few times for participating in civil rights rallies in the 1960s.

Watch one of Dick Gregory’s last stand-up performances in New Orleans this year below. (Warning: His set contains strong language.)