Cynthia's Interests

The world as it unfolds - told from an African American woman's perspective...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Slavery's Legacy - Part I

African Americans may still be experiencing the effects of slavery

American slavery ended more than a century and a half ago (1865). This may seem like a long time, but it isn’t. My maternal grandmother died at an early age and my mother was raised by her maternal grandmother. My great grand mother was eight years old when slavery ended so one can easily see how many Blacks can still feel the effects of slavery in this century. Back in those days, black women use to have a lot of kids. My great grand parents had 18 children, or I should say my great grand mother had 18 children. My great grand mother died when she was at the ripe old age of 103 long before I was born.

While the physical manifestations of slavery are for the most part buried, I believe the psychological damage has been passed through the generations and still exists today. To date, there have been few studies conducted to assess the impact of the traumas associated with the slavery of Africans or the generations that followed them. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) takes into account multigenerational trauma. Many studies of African Americans have focused only on environmental conditions of poverty and crime as predictors of future problems. Only a small number of studies have focused on their social problems resulting from sustained psychological multigenerational trauma from slavery.

There is a precedence for this type of study. A study on Holocaust Survivors has already been undertaken and it highlights the emotional problems of Holocaust survivors from a historical point of view. They focused on the experiences from survivors in the United States, and discovered they also sustained multigenerational trauma from the holocaust. The survivors found themselves alone and felt driven to reestablish families rapidly and they often made inappropriate choices. Another researcher, Dr. Bruce Lipton supports the fact that the brain undergoes physiological changes under stress and trauma.

Dr. Patricia Newton, M.D., MPH, MA, an author, behavioral medicine specialist, says if the Jews can experience generational psychological effects from the trauma they experienced in the short time of their holocaust, one can only imagine the type of trauma that African Americans are still dealing with after hundred of years of slavery in the Americas. She has written a book (Post Traumatic Slave Disorder) about her research in African Americans exploring or cataloging the long-term effects of chattel on Africans throughout the diaspora. Her research focuses primarily on looking at the generational effects of slavery on African Americans living in Baltimore and the results are astounding. She has concluded - the Africans that stepped on that boat are not the same Africans that stepped off that boat.

This past weekend - Dr. Newton was promoting her research in this area and I had the privilege of escorting her around Chicago. She is a wonderful, wonderful woman.

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