William E. Cross, Jr., Ph.D. is one of America’s leading theorists and researchers on black identity development in particular, and racial-ethnic identity development in general. His text, Shades of Black (Temple University Press, 1991) is a classic in the field. In 1963 Bill graduated from the University of Denver with a BA in psychology. He attended Roosevelt University for MA level studies in clinical psychology and after completing all course requirements and a clinical internship, he worked for two years at a state mental hospital. Although he never completed the MA degree, his exposure to clinical psychology explains his lifelong focus on process and developmental stages. Bill was swept-up by the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequently, he constructed Nigrescence Theory to explicate the identity change process linked to social movement dynamics. The Cross Model became “the” template for scholars fashioning similar models on Native American Identity, Women’s Identity, Gay-Lesbian Identity, and Asian American Identity, etc. Dr. Cross completed his doctorate at Princeton University, where his life long friend, Badi G. Foster, helped Bill forge a connection between psychology and African American Studies. His first academic appointment with the African Studies and Research Center [Cornell University] combined black studies and psychology. Bill entered Cornell as a psychologist, and after 20 years of immersion in interdisciplinary Black Studies, left the Africana Center transformed into a Cultural Psychologist.
While at Cornell [1973-1994], Dr. Cross wrote Shades of Black, which voiced his challenge to the Black Self-Hatred thesis, presented a major revision of the original Negro-to-Black Identity Change Model, and outlined a two-factor theory of self-concept structure (SC = PI + RGO). In 1994, he left Cornell to take a position at Pennsylvania State University, where his career was revitalized. Peony Fhagen-Smith – a graduate student at Penn State – turned Bill’s perspective toward a lifespan perspective, a focus recently revisited in an expanded work co-authored with Tuere Binta Cross, his daughter. At Penn State, Bill formed a research team consisting of Beverly Vandiver, Frank Worrell, Kevin Cokley, and Peony Fhagen-Smith. Together they designed, tested and validated the Cross-Racial-Identity-Scale [CRIS], one of the most important and exemplary measures used by Division 45 scholars. Terrell Jones, also from Penn State, introduced Bill to the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC), founded by Janet and Milton Bennett. In 2000 Bill joined the faculty of the Social-Personality Psychology Program, at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and at one point he also coordinated the GC Program in Africana Studies. Working along side Michelle Fine, Kay Deaux, Tracey Revenson, Colette Daiute and Robert Reid- Pharr, Bill’s work in the early 2000s became more progressive and openly radical. Bill’s conceptualization of racial-cultural identity enactments in everyday life evolved while at CUNY. Bill was awarded emeritus status in 2008 and he continues to serve on dissertation committees for doctoral students in social-personality and developmental psychology at the GC-CUNY. In 2001 Dr. Cross was named Distinguished Psychologist by the Association of Black Psychologists; in 2009 he received the Social Justice Education Award at the Winter Roundtable, Teachers College, and also in 2009, The William E. Cross, Jr., Lectures Series was created as part of the Annual Conference on Cross-Cultural Issues in Counseling and Education, sponsored by the Counseling Education Program at Georgia Southern State University. Recently Dr. Cross was elected President-Elect for Division 45 of the American Psychological Association, where he follows in the footsteps of Robert Sellers, Justin McDonald, and Luis Vasquez.
For a brief period Bill lived in Henderson, NV; where he accepted a position at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in Counselor Education. Recently, Bill and his wife Dawn moved to Colorado. Bill did not stay “retired” very long and currently he coordinates the Higher Education Program in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, which is to say his career has come full-circle, as he has returned to the university where he took his undergraduate degree.