The Psychological Legacy of Slavery

Essays on Trauma, Healing and the Living Past


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About the Book

This collection of essays surveys the practices, behaviors, and beliefs that developed during slavery in the Western Hemisphere, and the lingering psychological consequences that continue to impact the descendants of enslaved Africans today. The psychological legacies of slavery highlighted in this volume were found independently in Brazil, the U.S., Belize, Jamaica, Colombia, Haiti, and Martinique. They are color prejudice, self and community disdain, denial of trauma, black-on-black violence, survival crime, child beating, underlying African spirituality, and use of music and dance as community psychotherapy. The effects on descendants of slave owners include a belief in white supremacy, dehumanization of self and others, gun violence, and more. Essays also offer solutions for dealing with this vast psychological legacy. Knowledge of the continuing effects of slavery has been used in psychotherapy, family, and group counseling of African slave descendants. Progress in resolving these legacies has been made as well using psychohistory, forensic psychiatry, family social histories, and community mental health. This knowledge is crucial to eventual reconciliation and resolution of the continuing legacies of slavery and the slave trade.

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About the Author(s)

Benjamin P. Bowser is emeritus professor of sociology and social services at California State University East Bay where he was department chair, interim dean and outstanding professor, and visiting professor at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne.

Aime Charles-Nicolas is emeritus professor of psychiatry at the Universite des Antilles and University Hospital of Martinique. He is President of the Medico-Psychological Society, editor-in-chief of Journal of Psychiatry, Annales Medico-Psychologiques, and is the recipient of the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) and Chevalier des Palmes Academiques (Knight of Academic Palms).

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Benjamin P. Bowser and Aimé Charles-Nicolas

Foreword by Ali Moussa Iye

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 307
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7893-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4233-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Foreword: Engaging the Silence and Healing ­Post-Slavery Societies
Ali Moussa Iye 1
Introduction: Psychological Legacies of Slavery
Aimé ­Charles-Nicolas and Benjamin P. Bowser 5

Part One: Commonalities 33
1. Colorism in Belize
Elma ­Whittaker-Augustine 34
2. Slavery and Psychological Trauma in the Haitian Crisis
Judite Blanc 46
3. ­Afro-Brazilian Youth: Slavery’s Influence on Crime
Andréa Máris Campos Guerra
and Ana Carolina ­André-Cadar 66
4. Slavery’s Legacy in San Basilio Palenque, Colombia
Alexandra Escobar Puche 80
5. Those Who Disappeared
Bernard Dossa 89

Part Two: Concepts 97
6. A Psychiatric Look at the Legacy of Slavery
Aimé ­Charles-Nicolas 98
7. Explaining Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: Multigenerational Transmission of Trauma
Joy A. DeGruy 117
8. An Exploration of the Psychological Legacy of Slavery
Benjamin P. Bowser 140
9. The Psychological Legacy of Slavery in the United States: Trauma Derived from Centuries of Laws and Customs
Edwin J. Nichols 161
10. The Epigenetic Ramifications of the Trauma: Enslavement, Centuries of Chattel Slavery and Institutionalized Racism
Fatimah Jackson, Latifa Jackson and Zainab El Radi Jackson 184

Part Three: Solutions 209
11. Shattering Delusions of Slavery: Psychosocial ­Re-Engineering of Postcolonial Jamaica
Frederick W. Hickling 210
12. How to Conduct a ­Psycho-Social History
Benjamin P. Bowser 230
13. Healing the Wounds of Slavery: Potentials and Challenges
Scherto Gill 239

Conclusion: Recommendations and Healing, Releasing Trauma’s Grip
Aimé ­Charles-Nicolas and Benjamin P. Bowser 257
Coda: Masters and Slaves No More
Benjamin P. Bowser and Aimé ­Charles-Nicolas 279
About the Contributors 291
Index 297

Book Reviews & Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

“The authors critically challenge the detached lens of traditional historiographies of slavery to confront the scars of the transatlantic slave trade. By doing so, they expose the longstanding insidiousness of racial hierarchies that were born of slavery’s coercive structures. The objective is to move humanity forward by ending the sinister silence that denies the legacies of slavery. The essays embrace a theoretically sophisticated perspective grounded in the psychology of trauma….highly recommended.”—Choice