Black Identity Viewed from a Barber's Chair

Nigrescence and Eudaimonia

William E. Cross Jr.
William E. Cross Jr., recipient of the 2020 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Applications of Psychology, American Psychological Association
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2106-7
Publication: Jun 21

HC: $74.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2105-0
Publication: Jun 21

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2107-4
Publication: Jun 21

200 pages
5.5 x 8.25
4 tables, 2 figs.

On Blackness, identity formation, and the deconstruction of the deficit perspective on Black life

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).


Throughout his esteemed career, William Cross has tried to reconcile how Black men he met in the barber shop “seemed so normal,” but the portrayal in college textbooks of Black people in general—and the Black working class in particular—is self-hating and pathological. In Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair, Cross revisits his ground-breaking model on Black identity awakening known as Nigrescence, connects W. E. B. DuBois’s concept of double consciousness to an analysis of how Black identity is performed in everyday life, and traces the origins of the deficit perspective on Black culture to scholarship dating back to the 1930s. He follows with a critique showing such deficit and Black self-hatred tropes were always based on extremely weak evidence.

Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair ends with a new understanding of the psychology of slavery that helps explain why and how, during the first twelve years of emancipation, countless former slaves exhibited amazing psychological, political, and cultural independence. Once free, their previously hidden psychology became public.

His book sets out to disrupt and agitate as Cross attempts to more accurately capture the humanity of Black people that has been overlooked in previous research.


Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair is classic Bill Cross, a brilliant jazz ensemble—part intellectual history, part memoir, part social and political history, and part critical science. Elegant and original, this book is both groundbreaking and backward-looking in ways that carve new and innovative intellectual paths. Cross re-views Frazier, Clark, Du Bois, and the works on Black racial identities. And he reflects thoughtfully on his own work, the relentless persistence of the deficit perspective, and where the field needs to go. This book is just stunning; Cross moves in and out of political and intellectual history with brilliance.”
Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

“An impressive synthesis of psychology and Black studies, Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair is an intellectually interesting journey through Black history by one of the most significant Black theorists of our time. Cross is an erudite and insightful thinker of the highest order, and this book provides context for the creation of Black psychology as a discipline. It is a fitting conclusion to his life’s work.”
Kevin Cokley, Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, and author of The Myth of Black Anti-Intellectualism: A True Psychology of African American Students

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. The Barbershop Bias
2. Nigrescence Revisited: The Models
3. Nigrescence, Part 2: Issues
4. Double-Consciousness and the Performance of Identity
5. Interrogating the Deficit Perspective
6. Slavery, Trauma, and Resilience


About the Author(s)

William E. Cross Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Counseling Psychology, at the University of Denver and the author of Shades of Black: Diversity in African American Identity (Temple), coeditor of Meaning-Making, Internalized Racism, and African American Identity, and coauthor of Dimensions of Blackness: Racial Identity and Political Beliefs. He is the recipient of the 2020 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Applications of Psychology from the American Psychological Association.