If this man does not look biblical, I don't know who or what does. Anyway, he's Dick Gregory, and I went to hear him speak on Sunday night. When I was a 20-year-old student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, lo those many years ago, I also went to hear Gregory speak. I can't remember how I happened to go, but I certainly am happy that I did. This was a life-changing event for me, as I had the distinct impression that I was finally hearing The Truth, or at least a truly truer truth than I had ever heard before. I have carried that memory with me all this time, and when I saw that he would be in Chicago, I bought a ticket right away.
Anyone who has heard him will remember his style--very funny and also impassioned and always, always cutting right to the chase. He sees things that others simply don't, sees to the very center. Some people say that he rambles, but I say, "Let him."I could repeat any number of his insights for you here, but the one I will tell you this week had to do with what he sees as three sometimes-overlooked roots of the Civil War and the end of slavery. First, he mentioned Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn--because Twain gave a black man a name (Jim) and let him sit by the river and talk with a white man (Huck), two human beings together. Second, he mentioned Harriet Beecher Stowe, because in Uncle Tom's Cabin, she showed many white people for the first time what it was like to be a slave. Third, he mentioned John Brown, because he was so brave and so impassioned in his quest to end slavery, risking his own life and the lives of his sons. Gregory says that he plans to go to Harper's Ferry on December 2 for the 150th anniversary of Brown's raid, to honor the abolitionist.