SAN DIEGO (AP) — Dr. William Grier, a psychiatrist who co-authored the groundbreaking 1968 book, “Black Rage,” which offered the first psychological examination of black life in the United States, has died at age 89.
Grier’s eldest son, Geoffrey Grier, said Wednesday that his father died Thursday at a hospice care facility in Carlsbad, a coastal city north of San Diego, after suffering a brain lesion.
Grier and Price M. Cobbs, both black psychiatrists working in San Francisco in the 1960s, co-authored “Black Rage” to explain the anger that triggered the riots after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The authors argued how 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. In 1969, ABC produced a TV special about the book called “To Be Black.”
Grier had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and was driven by his need to expose the long-lasting effects of social oppression, his friends and colleagues 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.”
His father died believing his book was as relevant today as it was when it set off a firestorm of debate in the 1960s, he said.
“You can try to come up with another name, call it Black Lives Matter,” Grier said. “Whatever you want to say, at the end of day, there is black rage. The relevance of what they were saying is really, really on point now.”
Corrie Ort said her husband closely followed the news, including the police shootings of young black men in Missouri, New York and Baltimore. The couple lived in the beach community of Leucadia, north of San Diego.
“We really need to start listening,” Ort said.
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 years old, Ort said. He attended Howard University and later medical school at the University of Michigan and became trained as a psychoanalyst in Detroit.
Cobbs said his lifelong friend reframed the way people look at anger among African Americans.
Geoffrey Grier said he also opened the door for blacks to seek the help of a therapist, which was unheard of before the book’s release.
His family said Grier loved classical music, jazz, was a history buff and wrote poetry. Grier is the also the father of actor and comedian David Alan Grier, known for his role on the Emmy Award-winning TV show “In Living Color” and for his work on Broadway.
Grier is survived by his wife, and children, Geoffrey, David Alan, Elizabeth and stepson Derrek Karmoen, and stepdaughter Saminah Karmoen, and two grandchildren.