Magazine article Black History Bulletin

"Resilience: Overcoming the Crippling Obstacles of Slavery"

Magazine article Black History Bulletin

"Resilience: Overcoming the Crippling Obstacles of Slavery"

Article excerpt

In 1965, historian John Hope Franklin paid tribute to three enduring literary works--Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery (1915), W.E.B. Dubois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903), and James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912)--that chronicle the historical experiences of African Americans during or in the immediate aftermath of slavery times. As Dr. Franklin explained, "These Negro classics are as different from each other as the three authors who wrote them. Yet, in its own special way, each reveals the deep apprehensions and troubling dilemmas that virtually every sensitive Negro American has experienced. Each in its own way makes an attempt to overcome the crippling obstacles that every Negro in the United States has confronted." (1)

Intrigued by Franklin's use of the word "crippling," we were compelled to explore how Franklin intended this term, and in our investigation turned to the work of some 21st-century scholars. We read, for example, the research of Joy DeGruy Leary, a professor of social work, who describes the crippling or continuing bonds of slavery as "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS)." Dr. Leary explains: "African Americans sustained psychological and emotional injury as a direct result of slavery and continue to be injured by traumas caused by the larger society's policies of inequality, racism and oppression. A less severe form of the violence and abuse continued after slavery officially ended with peonage, Black Codes, Convict Leasing, lynchings, beatings, threats to life and property, the rise of the Klan, Jim Crow segregation, the death of Emmett Till, the race riots of the 1960s, the 1989 beating death of Mullageta Sera (an Ethiopian-American) by white supremacist Skin Heads, the proliferation of white supremacists groups, the near election of an ex-Klansman to governor for the state of Louisiana, the 1992 police beating of Rodney King, the 1999 dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas by four white youth, the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo in 1999, and the 2002 police beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson-Chavis, a special education, hearing impaired youth. All these events remind African Americans that the trauma has never really ceased and that it is likely to continue if there is no intervention." (2)

This issue of the Black History Bulletin highlights the resilience of African Americans during and after slavery, and in the process, models historical inclusion as a form of intervention for Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. …

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