Some of the strangest random possessions have the best stories behind them. My wife grew up in Boston’s South End, her family moving in back in 1968. To get a partial idea of the South End in the 1960’s and 1970’s have a peek at J. Anthony Lukas’ celebrated book “Common Ground.”
One of the relics from their first year in the new neighborhood is a small stack of Dick Gregory dollars, of which they let me keep a few:
In 1968, comedian and civil rights activist (and later dieting guru) Dick Gregory ran for President as a write-in candidate. I new a bit about Gregory, but decided to do a little online research and came up with some great nuggets:
- Gregory ran as a member Freedom & Peace Party, a splinter from the “Peace & Freedom” Party. People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front, anyone?
- The dollar bills were confiscated by the U.S. Treasury. Apparently, they worked in some of the primitive change-making machines of the day, though CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite couldn’t get one to work. Gregory claims one of the reasons the Treasury Department got off his case was that he persuaded them that a dollar bill featuring a black man couldn;t possibly be real. Touché.
- Gregory has always been outspoken, perhaps a bit “out there,” but a luandry list of his platform planks in the 1968 election (as laid out recently in the Daily Kos), make some eerie sense even in these times, such as:
- “America speaks with pride of the fruits of democracy and advocates democracy for the rest of the world. Yet we go all over the world trying to force democracy upon people at gunpoint.” (Dick Gregory)
- Gregory “wanted to see America taking leadership in eliminating world hunger and he proposed to have elementary school children contribute a penny a week and for adults to give up one meal each week with the proceeds from both to be used to feed the hungry.”
- Gregory “advocated the elimination of capital punishment. He sought a criminal justice system that accomplished rehabilitation of the criminal rather than merely punishment.”
Dick Gregory was definitely on the progressive edge as you will see reading through the rest of his ideas, but he was more than some joke candidate.
Speaking of which, if I could only find some Pat Paulsen memorabilia from 1968, my life would be complete.