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Nigger : An Autobiography by Dick Gregory

Nigger : An Autobiography (1964)

by Dick Gregory

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404743,687 (4.12)6
Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory's million-copy-plus bestselling memoir-now in trade paperback for the first time. "Powerful and ugly and beautiful...a moving story of a man who deeply wants a world without malice and hate and is doing something about it."-The New York Times Fifty-five years ago, in 1964, an incredibly honest and revealing memoir by one of the America's best-loved comedians and activists, Dick Gregory, was published. With a shocking title and breathtaking writing, Dick Gregory defined a genre and changed the way race was discussed in America. Telling stories that range from his hardscrabble childhood in St. Louis to his pioneering early days as a comedian to his indefatigable activism alongside Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gregory's memoir riveted readers in the sixties. In the years and decades to come, the stories and lessons became more relevant than ever, and the book attained the status of a classic. The book has sold over a million copies and become core text about race relations and civil rights, continuing to inspire readers everywhere with Dick Gregory's incredible story about triumphing over racism and poverty to become an American legend.… (more)

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"Dear Momma- Wherever you are, if you ever hear the word "nigger" again, remember, they are advertising my book."

Before I lend this book to my boss and risk its disappearance, I thought I'd transcribe a few of my favorite parts. On meeting his wife:

"She was so nervous while she was writing it down, she kept tearing the paper with her pencil point. I rolled up the paper and put it in my pocket. Lillian Smith stayed through the second show and the Sunday evening show and she kept staring at me like no one in Willard, Ohio, would ever believe she had actually talked to this great man. When I left that night with the girl I was dating at the time, I went over and said good night to Lillian. I thought it might give her a thrill to call her, just because she was so sure I wouldn't.

That night, back at Ozelle and William's I lay in bed and thought about that face staring up at me, that soft, little-girl face so out of place in a night club. It suddenly dawned on me that my mother would have looked that way if she had ever been to a night club. I had a dream that night about Momma, and I was Richard again, and she came off the streetcar and ran into the house and said: "Richard, oh, Richard, I spoke to the star of the show, Harry Belafonte, I talked to Harry Belafonte" and I said: "No, Momma," and she said: "Yes, I did, I really did, and he's going to call me on the phone." When I woke up that Monday morning and I could almost see her expression over the phone. I just talked to her, and told her I'd call her back soon and we'd have lunch."


On meeting a convict after a show he plays in a prison:

"He was an artist, and he asked me if I'd like to see his work. I did. When I saw it I got weak in the knees. He had drawings of women, of what he thought women looked like. But every one had a man's face, a man's eyes, a man's nose, a man's jaw, a man's lips. They had long hair and they had breasts and they were wearing lipstick and dresses. But every one was really a man.

It was so weird that a man should think he was drawing a woman and he was really drawing a man. But that convict had only seen men for fifty years; those male faces were all he knew. And I talked to Lil about it and the more we talked and the more I thought about it, the more frightened I got. If you had told that old man that his drawings were all wrong he would have called you a liar and been ready to fight. And then Lil and I carried it one step further. If you were born and raised in America, and hate and fear and racial prejudice are all you've ever known, if they're all you've ever seen..."

On a call he gets after the death of his son:

"I started toward her and the phone rang. It was a long-distance call from Alabama, collect. I accepted the charges. It was a white woman.

"Mister Gregory?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"I just heard on the radio that your son died, and let me tell you it serves you right, I'm real glad that happened, you coming down here where you don't belong and stirring up all..."
"I'm glad, too. I had five million dollars' worth of insurance on him."
There was a long silence, and then she said: "I'm sorry, please forgive me."

Such an awe-inspiring, beautifully written and sincerely felt memoir. I hope I get this back. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
I felt rage, heartbreak, and triumph. I cried for the simple things he did without as a child. I threw the book across the room and ranted for his abuse at the hands of racists. I laughed with delight at his successes and victories. I shared his hope for America's future.

A riveting subject combined with language wielded with incredible precision left me completely immersed in this memoir. Not a single word is wasted. Nothing could possibly be cut from this book. I wanted more.

I feel a greater emotional understanding of the heroes of the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the sacrifices they made to improve the United States. By heroes I mean every single participant.

I enjoyed reading it, made an emotional connection with it,and have become a better and more knowledgeable human being by reading it. What more could I possibly want from a book? ( )
  Zoes_Human | Jan 9, 2020 |
I read this book when I was in junior high. It had a huge impact on my thinking on racial issues. While I had dealt with this issues in some way, attending an integrated school and living in a multi-racial family, this was probably the first contact I had with the most ugly aspects of Jim Crow and our shameful racial history. ( )
  ckadams5 | Jun 19, 2019 |
I read this book when I was in junior high. It had a huge impact on my thinking on racial issues. While I had dealt with this issues in some way, attending an integrated school and living in a multi-racial family, this was probably the first contact I had with the most ugly aspects of Jim Crow and our shameful racial history. ( )
  ckadams5 | Jun 19, 2019 |
Dick Gregory, born 1932 in St. Louis, single mother.

This is an autobiography of a starved track star, smoking nutritionist, spontaneous "current events" commentator, devoted family man and night playboy club show empresario, satiric civil rights leader, and supreme ironist.

His mother (Lucille 1904-1953 [photo in book] died before Gregory became successful as a comedian/publisher. But he addresses his maternal ancestors in the book - telling "Momma" that someday "there won't be any niggers any more", and "whenever you hear the word, remember, they're just advertising my book".

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night....
It's dangerous for me to go back. You see, when I drink, I think I'm Polish. One night I got so drunk I moved out of my own neighborhood...
Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said 'We don't serve colored people here'.
I said 'That's all right. I don't eat colored peole. Bring me a whole fried chicken.'
About that time these three cousins come in, you know the ones I mean, Klu, Kluck, and LKlan, and they say 'Bory, we're givin' you fair warnin'. Anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you.' About then the waitress brought me my chicken. 'Remember, boy, anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you.' So I put down my knife and fork, and I picked up that chicken, and I kissed it". [144]

Note: Up from Nigger. ( )
  keylawk | Jan 7, 2014 |
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