Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory (1981)
Duration: 00:29:16

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Themes: Sports and Entertainment | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Dick Gregory, Barbra Tracey
Host : Paul Clements
Producer : Deborah Ray
Executive Producer : Juanita Anderson

Summary: This program from 1981 is an unusual example of the range of programs represented in the Detroit Black Journal series. Less polished and focused than many of the other programs in the series, it nevertheless confronts a serious issue - the Atlanta Child Killings - that was of intense interest to African Americans, at the time.

Hosted by Paul Clements, the program begins with a short interview of Barbra Tracey, director of the Eastside City Coalition. The Eastside City Coalition was, at the time, presenting a special conference on unity in the black community. Tracey discusses the aims of her organization and the conference. The majority of the program is given over to an interview of Dick Gregory, who was the keynote speaker at the coalition's conference.

Clements and Gregory spend most of their conversation exploring Gregory's views on the Atlanta case. At the time of the broadcast, the case included more than twenty victims. Many felt that authorities were not making sufficient progress toward solving the killings. The case, in which all of the victims were young and black, had stirred a great deal of concern in the black community, and sparked a lot of criticism of law-enforcement authorities. Many people thought that some white racist group, such as the Ku Klux Klan was responsible. Many believed that the young black man eventually charged and convicted in the case, Wayne Williams, was railroaded.

Gregory details his belief that the killings were the result of "fiendish experiments" conducted by, or with the knowledge of, the United States government. He admits that he has no direct evidence other than conversations with the mothers of several of the victims. But he argues his conclusions are based on logic and the government's history of using black people in experiments.

Gregory points to the large number of victims without any of them being able to get away and statements by victims' mothers about the condition of the bodies. Gregory maintains that even the FBI had been baffled by the case. He further defends his position by citing examples of the CIA tests of LSD on its own people and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment in which treatment for the disease was withheld from infected black men so that doctors could study the effects of the disease.

In Gregory's view the killings were related to interferon research, then a relatively new substance that was considered very promising for the treatment of cancer. "Some of the children may still be alive in a lab," Gregory asserts.

In addition, the interview with Gregory touches briefly on the United States' support for the apartheid government of South Africa and the lack of support within the black community for organizations, such as the NAACP, the Urban League and the SCLC, that actively promote and protect the rights of African Americans.

Although Gregory's theory seems outlandish in hindsight, the program underscores the importance of the Atlanta case in the black community. The case and the reactions to it, vividly illustrates the level of suspicion and distrust many African Americans felt - and continue to feel - toward governmental agencies. The interview spotlights Gregory's transition away from entertainment and toward radical social commentary.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 1, File 9, Gregory, Dick
Box 16, File 21, Eastside Coalition/Dick Gregory – 1981