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Dick Gregory, the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to protest and fasting in the name of assorted social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died Saturday in Washington. He was 84.

Mr. Gregory’s son, Christian Gregory, who announced his death on social media, said more details would be released in the coming days. Mr. Gregory had been admitted to a hospital on Aug. 12, his son said in an earlier Facebook post.

Early in his career Mr. Gregory insisted in interviews that his first order of business onstage was to get laughs, not to change how white America treated Negroes (the accepted word for African-Americans at the time). “Humor can no more find the solution to race problems than it can cure cancer,” he said. Nonetheless, as the civil rights movement was kicking into high gear, whites who caught his club act or listened to his routines on records came away with a deeper feel for the nation’s shameful racial history.

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 Dick Gregory in 2016. He believed that within a well-delivered joke lies power. Credit Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic, via Getty Images

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https://www.nytimes.com/

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