Dick Gregory begins hunger strike in Olympia jail on June 6, 1968.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 5/21/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5462

On June 6, 1968, African American civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory (1932-2017) begins serving a 90-day sentence in the Thurston County Jail in Olympia, by pledging to live on only bread and distilled water. He goes on the hunger strike to protest state laws restricting Native American rights.

Gregory was convicted in 1966 for illegally fishing in the Nisqually River. His sentence began after court appeals failed. On July 4, 1968, on the 39th day of his fast, Gregory was removed from the jail to a hospital because of his deteriorating physical condition. On July 16, 1968, Gregory was released from the hospital to his home in Chicago as a trustee, to serve the balance of his sentence. His weight had dropped to 135 pounds.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 256-258; The Seattle Times, June 6, 1968, p. 61; Ibid., July 17, 1968, p. 3; "Dick Gregory, Deft Comedian Who Broke '60s Racial Barriers," The Seattle Times, August 20, 2017.
Note: This essay was updated on August 20, 2017.

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