From the beginning of American chattel slavery in 1619 until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Africans were hunted like animals, captured, sold, tortured, and raped. They experienced the worst kind of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse. Given such history, Dr. Joy DeGruy asks, “Isn’t it likely that many slaves were severely traumatized? Furthermore, did the trauma and the effects of such horrific abuse end with the abolition of slavery?”
Emancipation was followed by one hundred more years of institutionalized subjugation through the enactment of Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, peonage and convict leasing, and domestic terrorism and lynching. Today the violations continue, and when combined with the crimes of the past, result in yet unmeasured injury. What do repeated traumas visited upon generation after generation of a people produce? What are the impacts of the ordeals associated with chattel slavery, and with the institutions that followed, on African Americans today?
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing answers theses questions and more. Dr. DeGruy encourages African Americans to view their attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors through the lens of history and so gain a greater understanding of the impact centuries of slavery and oppression has had on African Americans. “With this understanding we can explore the role our history has played in the evolution of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, both negative and positive. This exploration will help lay the foundation necessary to ensure our well- being and the sustained health of future generations.”