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November 4, 1976

Dick Gregory, political activist and comedian, lectured on America’s “white racist sexist system” for two hours and 20 minutes to an audience of 900 in the Chapel. Finding little cause for hope in the outcome of the recent election, Gregory said, “It didn’t make too much damn’ difference which of those two cats got in…. I knew Ford was gonna lose when he watied until after people were dying from the flu shots before he got his.” Gregory “saved his most scathing barbs,” wrote Leo Crowley ’77 in The Miscellany News, “for Earl Butz,” the former secretary of agriculture who has resigned a month earlier after, after a salacious racist joke of his was reported in the media. Butz was, said Gregory, the “kind of guy who writes dirty words on bathroom walls—in his own house.” Gregory urged students to get involved in protest movements, inviting them to join a Thanksgiving day rally in front of the White House in protest of conditions in South Africa.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Steve Nelson ’77 reported being approached by “two neatly dressed, middle-aged men” after Gregory’s talk who, according to Jack Nadler ’77 in The Miscellany News, wanted “to talk to you about the future of our country.” Noting that Gregory had identified the men as FBI agents, Nelson said he’d been “non-commital” in response to questions about “the extent of radical activities on campus by both students and faculty” and about whether he planned to join the Thanksgiving demonstrators. But, Nadler added “he did tell them that, for the most part, ‘student opinion in closer to Dick Gregory than to the Ford administration.’”

Some 30 Vassar students joined the Thanksgiving protest. Dick Gregory, who had first come to Vassar to entertain during Christmas House Party weekend in 1964, appeared on campus again in 1981, 1990 and 1999.

The Years