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Dick Gregory's Political Primer

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A unique and timeless guide to American government and its electoral process—as relevant today as when it was first published in 1972—from the voice of black consciousness, cultural icon Dick Gregory, the incomparable satirist, human rights and environmental activist, health advocate, social justice champion, and author of the NAACP Image Award–winning Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies and the classic bestseller Nigger: An Autobiography.

For most of his life, Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory worked to educate Americans about the issues—and the forces of power—shaping their lives. A brilliant and informed student of the American experiment, he viewed and understood politics with an acuity few possess. Nearly fifty years ago, on the eve of Richard M. Nixon’s reelection, he wrote a classic guide to the American political system for ordinary folks. Today, when American democracy is threatened, his primer is more necessary than ever before.

In Dick Gregory’s Political Primer, Gregory presents a series of lessons accompanied by review questions to educate and empower every citizen. He provides amusing, concise, and clear information and commentary on the nature of political parties, the three branches of government and how they operate, how the campaign process works and the costs, and more. Gregory offers imaginative comparisons such as the Hueys—Long, the populist Louisiana governor and Newton, the cofounder of the Black Panthers—and numerological parallels between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. He also includes a trenchant glossary that offers insights into some of the major players, terms, and institutions integral to our democracy and government.

An essential guide to American history unlike any other, Dick Gregory’s Political Primer joins the ranks of classics such as Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and is essential reading for every American.

ISBN-13: 9780062981356

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 09-15-2020

Pages: 304

Product Dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Richard “Dick” Claxton Gregory was an African American comedian, civil rights activist, and cultural icon who first performed in public in the 1950s. He was on Comedy Central’s list of “100 Greatest Stand-Ups” and was the author of fourteen books, most notably the bestselling classic Nigger: An Autobiography. A hilariously authentic wisecracker and passionate fighter for justice, Gregory is considered one of the most prized comedians of our time. He and his beloved wife, Lil, have ten kids.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

To the Student: Bicentennial Breakthrough 1

Lesson 1 That Long, Hot Summer-1787 26

Lesson 2 Parties Prevail 43

Lesson 3 The Primary Objective 71

Lesson 4 Politics on Parade 79

Lesson 5 Pounding Out Platforms 92

Lesson 6 Promises, Promises 116

Lesson 7 The High Cost of Conviction 125

Lesson 8 Power to What People? 135

Lesson 9 Missing the Party 144

Lesson 10 The Constitution's Institutions 158

Lesson 11 Now That Voting Has Caught Up with the Draft 178

Lesson 12 Techniques of Persuasion 190

Lesson 13 Studying War No More 196

Lesson 14 A Turnip in Every Plot 213

Lesson 15 Citizen Surveillance 235

Lesson 16 Planetary Politics 253

Lesson 17 How to Evaluate a Candidate 261


Dick Gregory's Do-It-Yourself Acceptance Speech 269

Dick Gregory's Literacy Test for Candidates 271

Glossary 273

A Gregorian Poll 281

Notes on Sources 287

About the Author 294