• President of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity Alpha Chapter
  • PhD from Princeton
  • Helped to found the American Association of Black Psychologist in 1968
  • Assistant Chair of African American Studies at Princeton in 1969
  • Professor at Cornell 1973 – 1994
  • Penn State University professor 1994 –
  • President Elect of Division 45
  • Married 40 years
  • 2014 APA Presidential Citation

Personal Worldview

Cross humbly approaches black psychology. Black people in America existed 350 years before psychology and thrived. Psychologists should approach the community in hopes of learning from them and not teaching or dictating.

He also doesn’t approach black psychology from the avenue of oppression only. He also doesn’t want to portray European culture as only anti-black. There are many aspects of European culture that are anti-black and those aspects must be isolated and removed. However, black people cannot be afraid to learn from all cultures. He describes his own worldview as Afrocentric informed, but ultimately multicultural.

Being his own worldview is multicultural, he scolds those who believe there is one way to be black. He has meet happy well adjusted black people that have an assimilated, Afrocentric, bicultural, and multicultural view. Attempts to mandate one black worldview did not work. The only worldview that is detrimental is one in which blackness is accepted, but not used to inform decisions and ideological stances. An example of this would be Clarence Thomas, a man that knows he is black yet sees no responsibility in making life better for other black people.

Ethnic Identity Development is proposed as a way to re-order one’s worldview with new information and fight against self-hate. An example of the process of building a healthy black worldview would be W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois grew up in the whitest conditions possible and then discovered his blackness in college at Fisk. When he reflected on his experience, he concluded that he must dedicate his life to creating a better life for his people.

Ethnic Identity Development

The goal of his work is to expand psychology’s view of blackness as more than a pathology. Also, expand what defines a healthy identity. At the time Cross published his work psychologists wondered how identity affects self-esteem and if certain identities make a person have higher self-esteem, since many of the subjects saw blackness as something making their life harder and separating themselves from others. The fact that the identity of blackness separated people and made them less happy caused blackness to be seen as a pathology. Cross’s work shows healthy self-esteem as a willingness to identify with a group of people and help in their struggles for self-improvement. Whether a person is happy or wants to interact with others at all times has more to do with upbringing and more than likely will not change.

Cross purposes a five-stage model for Ethnic Identity Development. The stages are:

  1. Pre-Encounter
  2. Encounter
  3. Immersion /Emerson
  4. Internalization
  5. Internalization – Commitment

In the pre-encounter phase a person is unaware that they have the identity. People are in this stage at early childhood and pre-adolescents. Then there is an encounter phase in which a trauma happens that forces a person to recognize their identity. Immersion is the next phase when a person obsesses and personifies all the trappings of their identity and puts down other identities. In immersion black people will challenge other black people on their blackness and put down what they see as white culture. After a person spends enough time fighting all other identities to create their own they internalize the identity. Internalization allows a person to interact and respect people from their own group and other groups. The highest for of ethnic identity is internalization- commitment . At the Commitment stage a person works to help their community become empowered regardless of their personal feelings about the identity.


  1. Pi Lamda Phi About page

2. Dr. William Cross Jr. Exemplifies Inclusive Excellence by J. Davies

3. William Cross

4. William Cross

5. “Validating the Cross Racial Identity Scale” By Vandiver, Worrel, Fhagen-Smith, and Cross in Journal of Counseling Psychology

6.”The Psychology of Nigrescence” by Cross in Handbook of Psychology

7. Cross, William E. (1991) Shades of Black; Diversity in African-American Identity Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press

8. “Cross’s Nigrescence Model: From Scale to Theory” in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

9. “William. E. Cross, Jr. PhD Awarded 2014 APA Presidential Citation on