'Black Rage' writer William H. Grier passes away

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What the hell do niggers want anyway?

Every other ethnic group has made it up the ladder on its own. Why don't the blacks do likewise?

They keep raving about their rights. Well, white people have rights too.

Black Rage

The above are the startling, controversial opening sentences of a landmark book, Black Rage, that sought to answer why it is black people come across as angry to white Americans.

47 years ago, psychologist William H. Grier and co-author Price M. Cobbs released Black Rage, a psychological examination of the toxic effects of racism on the African-American community.

Grier passed away last week at the age of 89 due to complications with prostate cancer, according to his son Geoffrey.


The book was controversial and was criticized in the New York Times' Books section because it only discussed the causes and effects of racism and did not offer possible solutions to the problem. An earlier review in the Paper of Record, however, had praised the book.

Grier and Cobbs, who ran a psychiatry clinic together in San Francisco at a time when there were very few African American psychiatrists in the city, wrote a book that "opened the eyes of a broad audience to the psychological rather than the economic consequences of racism," the Times says now.

“Black Rage,” published by Basic Books in 1968, laid out in unsparing terms the psychic tightrope that black Americans walked, their self-image, family structures and worldview distorted by the weight of white oppression.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book was how the two authors defined black rage as an offshoot of "cultural paranoia"—the feeling that society might strip you of your rights, your personhood at any given time without warning. This feeling can directly be traced to the "seething anger" blacks hid under layers of deference:

As a sapling bent low stores energy for a violent backswing blacks bent double by oppression have stored energy which will be released in the form of rage—black rage, apocalyptic and final.


In the closing pages of the book, the authors noted that it had been "an attempt to evoke a certain quality of depression and hopelessness in the reader and to stir these feelings." There's no question that the two succeeded.

As the Black Lives Matter movement grows stronger and finds itself under more and more scrutiny, it's important to remember that the same criticisms laid out in those first paragraphs of Black Rage have been repeated for decades now.


A more extensive and thorough accounting of Grier's life and work is available in his New York Times obituary as well as this interview with a San Francisco TV station shortly after Black Rage's publication.

The first 25 pages of Black Rage are available for free on Google Books.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: david.matthews@fusion.net