Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Article excerpt

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy Deruy Leary, PhD Uptone Press, Milwaukie: Oregon, 2005

Reviewed by:

Pamela V. Hammond, PhD, RN, FAAN and Bertha L. Davis, PhD, RN, FAAN

This book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, is touted by the author as an account of America's enduring legacy of injury and healing. This text is replete with consciousness stirring passages that incite reflection while allowing readers to thrust themselves into a discussion about what it means to understand knowledge and trudis about slavery and its vestiges. The journeys through history prevent revisionists' dogma from clouding consciousness, and the analysis of events promotes healing. To have this text in the possession of scholars provides them with a guide that will help develop emotional intelligence and explain why and how we are influenced by the experiences of our ancestors.

As one finishes the prologue and introduction and begins reading Chapter 1 on page 18, the word "powerful" immediately comes to mind. One's soul is stirred as the author begins by relating the tension she felt in the United States and during her sojourn to South Africa in 1994. Her words are gripping as she likens racism to a serious illness that has been allowed to fester for 400 years without proper attention. As nurses, we were definitely able to relate when Dr. Leary touched on disparities in health as well as in economics and education that are associated with being black in America.

Being reminded that our ancestors were treated as property and only as humans when it was profitable to their owners stirred our emotions in Chapter 2. The author details how blacks were counted as 3/5 of a person, and she gives an overview of differences in slavery in America and slavery in other parts of the world such as Europe and Africa. American slaves had no legal rights as property, but interestingly enough, slaves outside of the United States did have rights and could even buy themselves out of slavery under certain conditions. As you may have guessed, slavery in America was built on the idea of black inferiority. Leary's account is a must read for anyone interested in the evolution of this concept. As one continues through Chapter 2, it will be noted that this chapter is sprinkled with quotes and information from politicians, scientists, and others trying to justify the institution of slavery. Leary even provides definitions of terms from Webster's dictionary to demonstrate how language has been misused to perpetrate lies and deceptions regarding African Americans and to justify racism.

The drawing of the slave ship and its cargo at the beginning of Chapter 3 created a visceral reaction from us even before reading the account of overcrowding and overpopulation of African Americans in prisons...our current reality! The autiior describes barbarity as occurring throughout human history, and she goes on to describe how tins history has been "sanitized" in the United States. The autiior does an outstanding job of "unsanitizing" parts of black history - forced immigration resulting in bondage, beatings, and rape. Dr. Leary does not stop here in her discussion of history. She continues her discussion and makes us face the shame of believing that we were free when slavery ended and rid of the horrors of bondage - only for us to be reminded that freedom was not free and included bondage, beatings, rape, and a life under Jim Crow laws. There is also a discussion of the Tuskegee Study. We, the reviewers, are Tuskegee graduates and admittedly have a negative reaction at the very mention of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study...this chapter was no exception. The book had to be closed and picked up later in an effort to maintain objectivity. …

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