William Grier: Psychiatrist whose book 'Black Rage' was the first psychological examination of black life in the US


Click to follow

The psychiatrist William Grier co-wrote the groundbreaking 1968 book Black Rage, which offered the first psychological examination of black life in the US. He and Price Cobbs were both black psychiatrists working in San Francisco in the 1960s, writing Black Rage to explain the anger that triggered the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King. They argued that the heritage of slavery contributed to the unrest decades after the end of segregation and continued to affect society as well as the personal lives of African Americans.

Born in 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama, Grier saw racial injustice from a young age when his father was unfairly fired from his job as a postman, forcing the family to move in with relatives in Detroit when Grier was 12. He attended Howard University and later medical school at the University of Michigan and trained as a psychoanalyst in Detroit.

Grier had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and was driven by his need to expose the long-lasting effects of social oppression, his son Geoffrey said. “I think that desire to acquire information coupled with his social conscience formed a force that was hard to be reckoned with,” Geoffrey Grier said. “Black Rage was required reading in schools, colleges for a long period of time. It allowed all people to be able read, understand, comprehend, draw conclusions, and make connections. It had a much larger impact than we think.”

Another of Grier’s sons is the actor and comedian David Alan Grier, known for his role on the Emmy Award-winning TV show In Living Color.


William Grier, psychiatrist and author: born Birmingham, Alabama 1926; married (one daughter, two sons, one stepdaughter, one stepson); died 3 September 2015.