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Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing

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While African Americans managed to emerge from chattel slavery and the oppressive decades that followed with great strength and resiliency, they did not emerge unscathed. Slavery produced centuries of physical, psychological and spiritual injury. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing lays the groundwork for understanding how the past has influenced the present, and opens up the discussion of how we can use the strengths we have gained to heal.

235 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2005

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Joy DeGruy Leary

2 books3 followers

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5 stars
1,198 (60%)
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3 stars
167 (8%)
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10 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 241 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,988 followers
March 12, 2023
An important book about the history of slavery in the United States and the intergenerational impact of enslavement on Black Americans. Joy DeGruy explores and unpacks how some of Black Americans’ present-day behaviors may stem from slavery (i.e., glorifying whiteness and viewing Blackness as inferior, possessing low self-esteem, and persistent anger). Through her historically-attuned arguments, she makes the case for both understanding the past and using that knowledge to change the present. I think this book may be of particular benefit to people who don’t know much about the history of slavery in the United States as well as those who want to think more deeply about intergenerational internalized racism. I found DeGruy’s writing about Black parents and how they raise their children particularly fascinating; I think she avoids common stereotypes about Black parents and instead urges us to consider sociocultural and historical context and how those factors affect parenting.
Profile Image for Mary.
741 reviews14 followers
June 27, 2013
A frustrating, thought-provoking and important book. Every adult American should read it, for it offers much substance in spite of its flaws.

It's amazing to me, looking on Amazon, how divisive this book is. Dr. De Gruy Leary seems a gentle person who writes with a simple, clear, style. Much of her historical information is illuminating, and her main argument - that, due to their history of slavery, African-Americans perforce had to learn methods of coping that have been handed down through the generations, and which are no longer serving them well - simply makes sense. Trauma DOES get handed down in families! Surely that is inarguable by now. It takes conscious, disciplined effort to break the chain of abuse, and surely there can be no worse abuse that that endured by the enslaved peoples - African and otherwise - of the Americas. (*note to follow)

So far, so good. Dr. De Gruy Leary is excellent on the trauma of slavery, and her personal stories (on how to teach and motivate a group of learning-disabled African-American tweens, for example) are illuminating. Unfortunately, her message is weakened in a couple of places by glaring overstatements and errors. For example, she does seem to imply that, because our society is structurally racist, all European-Americans are racist by definition. This isn't true. Worse, she misrepresents the German anthropologist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Here is what she quotes from him on page 61. Blumenbach is arguing that modern humans originated in Georgia, in the Caucasus:

"For, in the first place, the stock (Georgian) displays . . . the most beautiful form of the skull. Besides, it is white in color, which we may fairly assume to have been the primitive color of mankind."

Dr. DeGruy Leary says, "Let's see. ..skull bones being white lead him to the conclusion that Europeans were the first humans?" But that's clearly not what the quote says. "The stock" is white. Dr. De Gruy Leary is quite right to say that, from this false assumption - that Georgians from the Caucasus were the first humans - Blumenbach is making statements that can't be proven and therefore aren't science. But she doesn't mention that Blumenbach, later on, really did work from observation and therefore really did do science. His observation? That Africans varied quite as much as Europeans, and that some of them were brilliant! Therefore, he insisted "Africans were not inferior to the rest of mankind 'concerning healthy faculties of understanding, excellent natural talents and mental capacities'.[4] (quoted in Wikipedia.) Blumenbach was distressed when his arguments were taken up by racists, and argued passionately against racism.

At least one reader has used this mistaken analysis to completely discount Dr. DeGruy Leary's argument. That's unfortunate. Her having made a mistake like this calls her other historical materials into question - and it shouldn't. When she is right (for example, about the underlying causes of violence in the Black community, or about African-American children's lack of self-esteem), she is right. This book was uncomfortable for me, as a European American, to read. But I'm glad I read it, and I do recommend it, in spite of my reservations. I am going to recommend that our Pax Christi group read and discuss it. One of the things we pray regularly is that we receive the Grace to "always transform, and never transmit, violence done against us." Rightly understood, Dr. De Gruy Leary's book is an attempt to do just that.

(*Note: some people will say that the Nazis were worse in what they did to nearly ten million Jews, Christians, Gypsies, and other dissidents or people they saw as inferior. They may well have been, and that trauma, too, is being passed down and re-enacted in unhealthy ways. But Hitler only ruled for twelve years, and the communists in Russia - who were at least as bad - for a few generations. Slavery in the Americas endured for centuries, and we are still dealing with its legacy today. Also, some of the slave owners really were as bad as Nazis. We need to recognize that, just as we need to recognize that racism is alive and well in America today
Profile Image for Sleepless Dreamer.
863 reviews242 followers
December 30, 2020
I refuse to finish 2020 so behind on reviews. And yet, there are like 6 different papers I have to read now so this will be short.

The idea of this book is fascinating. I wish the execution was better but I'm still excited by the idea of it. DeGruy coins Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. It is as it sounds- Black people are still impacted by the trauma of slavery. She argues that much of Black behavior nowadays stems from habits picked up during slavery. In modern times, these habits are what holds Black people back. The solution is to acknowledge that such trauma exists.

As a Jew, this resonated with me. I've been thinking a lot about Jewish trauma and how it paints our behavior. Anyone who's curious about this, I really recommend this video (it even has English subtitles). Hearing DeGruy's analysis made me consider how palpable all of this is, how our perspectives can be entirely shaped by history we have not experienced. How would the conversation about racism look if we acknowledged that the trauma is there?

However, there's something quite meandering about the book itself. DeGruy spends much time introducing slavery (if there's an American adult that doesn't know what Jim Crow laws were, the education department needs to be replaced).

Beyond that, it's unclear who the audience of this book is supposed to be. Is this for POCs to heal from their trauma? Is this a psychology book meant to introduce a new syndrome? Is this for white people to understand this trauma? It seems like DeGruy herself doesn't know.

To conclude, I think the concept from this book is fascinating. The first and last chapters were fantastic (and the reason for my rating). I think readers can skip over the historical chapters since they're really not more advanced than a wikipedia article.

What I'm Taking With Me
- It's 2020 and saying that black lives matter is still controversial, the heck?
- Americans need to acknowledge this trauma, this is how it will be healed.
- What does closure mean in modern times? Repartitions? Solving the poverty problems?

Wow, I feel this strong urge to talk about this book with people. Review to come!
Profile Image for Kim.
121 reviews8 followers
July 11, 2014
I loved this book - from time to time I need to reread PTSS - it shows me were all my wounded places are, how they got there, and then it reminds me to take time out to heal.
Profile Image for Tim Haslett.
14 reviews18 followers
February 17, 2008
This book will make many different sorts of people uncomfortable. That is, of course, a good thing. Dr. Leary's long and prolific career has been spent thinking about how enslavement isn't 'history,' it isn't even past yet. Her attention to how The Middle Passage and enslavement dehumanized whites is so badly needed. As another review mentioned, white people experienced a kind of 'cognitive dissonance' when carrying out unspeakably brutal acts on a daily basis. She infers that the decolonization of the white mind is just as urgent as Fanon's project of psychic decolonization of the minds of black people, or escape from a 'slave mentality' a la the Willie Lynch letter.

This is also a tremendously sad book insofar as it traces the origin of black-on-black violence, the 'crabs in a barrel' phenomenon, the Freudian repetition of violence from a trauma that has never been addressed by the state, and thus the violence keeps coming back in the form of black self-hatred,
the denigration of black women and LGBTQ folks, the warehousing of black men and women in so-called correctional facilities.

Frantz Fanon, had his life not been cut tragically short, would probably love this book. I also admire Dr. Leary for drawing on predominantly black scholars in social work and psychology. She is also no blind acolyte of 'postmodernism' and thus there is a real praxis here rather than pure theory.

What cements this book for me is her use of the Swahili term Ma'afa ('catastrophe') to grasp the enormity of the nearly 50 million Africans who died in The Middle Passage.

Set alongside Dr. Alvin Pouissant and Amy Alexander's 'Lay My Burden Down', on Black folks and suicide, which formulates something like Leary's PTSS, this text is far preferable to their sometimes 'bougie' nationalism.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ellison Rhea.
43 reviews4 followers
June 14, 2014
An eye-opening, mind-blowing look at race relations in American society-- from a perspective grounded in history, psychology, and sociology.

I heard Dr. Joy speaking on the radio for about five minutes and knew that I had to experience as much of her insight as possible. I immediately bought tickets to hear her speak live (search YouTube for Dr. Joy DeGruy, she is a fantastic presenter) and ordered this book. As a white person who has recently found herself more and more a part of predominantly black communities, I was eager to understand a little more of the experience of people of African American descent in the United States, historically and currently. This book did SUCH an amazing job of doing that-- Dr. Joy writes with a clarity and intellectual integrity that is truly rare in such sensitive issues, and her perfect balance of primary sources and plain talk really cut through the bull-- and prepare me to do the same in my social conversations about race. But it also goes beyond that-- I didn't realize how formative race has been in shaping our society as a whole. The world just makes more sense now.

Some favorite quotes:

"Those who have been the victims of years, decades, and centuries of oppression first must heal from injuries received first-hand, as well as those passed down through the ages. Those who have been the perpetrators of these unspeakable crimes, and those who continue to benefit from those crimes, have to honestly confront their deeds and heal from the psychic wounds that come with being the cause and beneficiaries of such great pain and suffering.... The nature of this work is such that each group first must see to their own healing, because no group can do another's work. With this understanding I have dedicated my life to helping the children of the African Diaspora, particularly those whose history is wrapped up in the history of America." (Pg. 5)

"As a result of centuries of slavery and oppression, most white Americans in their thoughts as well as actions believe themselves superior to blacks. Of greater import, too many African Americans unconsciously share this belief." (P. 116)

"Today, the African American community is made up of individuals and families who collectively share differential anxiety and adaptive survival behaviors passed down from prior generations of African Americans, many of whom likely suffered from PTSD." (P. 119)

(Much of the content is long passages of evidence that are mind-blowing and readable, but not snippet-quotable, haha.)

DeGruy, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Portland: Joy DeGruy Publications, 2005.
Profile Image for Imani406.
87 reviews30 followers
September 22, 2017
This is required reading for everyone. Dr. DeGruy's voice is powerful. She educates and articulates in a manner of "duh, this is common sense people" and I absolutely loved it b/c most of what Dr. DeGruy discusses as the symptoms of PTSS is common sense. There's so much to digest. This book was tabbed up from left to right. For sure study material & I plan on purchasing the study guide. This was very inspirational and it's time to heal our community. Y'all please pick this book up.
Profile Image for Amber.
12 reviews
May 13, 2014
"Did you think that we would forget you? I am from Lesotho, Lesotho is my home. If I leave Lesotho, Lesotho is still my home. If I leave Lesotho for 50 years, Lesotho is still my home. You are African, 300 years from home. We mourned Martin and Malcolm with you, we are so proud of you, we just wondered when you were coming home." --Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy

I was profoundly touched and moved by this book. It's an insightful read on the history of Africans in America and the way that history still impacts us (in negative and positive ways) today. I think Dr. DeGruy connects our history, present, and future in a very thoughtful way and she also lays out what I believe to be very helpful tips for healing within the black community. Obviously from the quote above, I also really liked her stories about African American's connection to Africa.

I would suggest this book to anyone interested in learning more about the connection between African American past and our present, African American psychology, healing, and just the general mental health of black folks in America.
Profile Image for Nicole.
103 reviews
January 14, 2021
This was a long read, largely due to the emotional weight of the content, but also (for me) the academic tone of the writing was an additional slow ride for me. But overall, there were a lot of valuable stories, examples, and food for discussion. It really helped me gain a further understanding of how generational trauma has seeped into modern Black culture and behavior.

Some parts of the book felt a little too preachy for me, but overall it was full of lessons I will be carrying with me for the rest of my life.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
December 27, 2020
This was a pretty fast read for me, largely because I was already familiar with most of what was in the book, as a result of a lot of study of American history and reading various books on the Black experience.

One GR reviewer suggested that this book would be perfect to assign as a companion volume for high school U. S. history classes. I agree. It covers so much of what they should know.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,233 reviews
September 4, 2019
I heard one of DeGruy's talks on YouTube and thought the theory sounded interesting. This is a very approachable book and super readable. I would guess it is appropriate for high school level race classes, not super detailed or in depth, but she explains everything very well and gives lots of examples.

Ultimately her theory is that the patterns of behavior and some aspects of black culture were created out of the response to slavery and have served to continually reinforce racism and inequality in America such as: the "legacy of trauma is reflected in many of our behaviors and beliefs; behaviors and beliefs that at one time were necessary to adopt in order to survive, yet today serve to undermine our ability to be successful."

She lays it out specifics pretty well: “Taking on the negative stereotype as our identity; developing low expectations for ourselves, our families and our community; assuming that we will fail in most things that we set out to achieve; losing the critical respect for ourselves and thus diminishing others like us; perpetually trying to outrun the demon of shame by amassing material things in exchange for our dignity; forgetting how to love ourselves and each other”.

She also does a good job comparing black Americans to Africans (after her trip) and also highlights the differences between traditional villagers and Africans that are the progeny of former Dutch slaves; the black Americans and former African slaves are much more similar in demeanor and attitude than those from traditional villages.

Because the book is so "light", I am not complete sure I agree with all of her logical references and some of the citations are weak. I would not accept this as a tested theory, but I really agree with a lot of what she has to say and think she takes a measured approach to lay out her argument. Overall it is a worthwhile read with an interesting theory. It is not too dense, but her argument appeals to me.
Profile Image for Kristin.
229 reviews
January 26, 2013
When I first started working for the Beacon at Roosevelt, I asked the wise person who had my current job then why there were so many African American students in special education classes. "Slavery," she answered. Years later when Brandon told me about this book and I read it I finally understood more of what she meant. Joy Degrury Leary explains the connections between the horrific ordeals of slavery, slaves' adaptations to survive, and current issues. While this is a very intense story and not easy to read, the author is hopeful that these wounds can be healed. I am glad I read this book and I think more people should know about it. Thanks Veronica for wanting to see my books all white people should read list and therefore encouraging me to add another book that belongs there but I read before I started using Goodreads.
Profile Image for Sumayyah.
Author 11 books59 followers
February 21, 2021
We have some unpacking to do. We have been carrying around unnecessary traumatic baggage for over 400 years, and it is time to let it go. Can we do it alone? No, of course not; however, we can start by healing ourselves and our communities, and remembering who we are. Dr. DeGruy explains our generational trauma and offers a few suggestions for getting started on our healing journey.

The chapter titled "Healing" is what made me lower my rating, as parts of it feel a little preachy/shamey, and lean just this side into "respectability". Overall, this book is an excellent starting point for learning the reasoning behind certain behaviors and thought processes of Black people in America.
Profile Image for Sean Liburd.
Author 11 books13 followers
August 7, 2011
Are you ready to understand the Psychological trauma created by 400 years of slavery? If you answered yes then Dr Leary’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome – America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing is a must read. This book is an analytical journey of the horrifying effects of chattel slavery, lynching, Jim Crow laws, racism and all the other oppressive methods used against African-Americans for decades upon their psyche. Dr. Leary methodically lay’s out of how the lifestyles of African Americans today was influenced by their ancestors. She takes the reader through the process of diagnosing the various illnesses plaguing the African-American community by clearly defining and discussing the major categories of afflictions and providing one real life examples after another provoking feelings of recognition.

“Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is a condition that exists when a population has experienced multigenerational trauma resulting from centuries of slavery and continues to experience oppression and institutionalized racism today. Added to this condition is a belief (real or imagined) that the benefits of the society in which they live are not accessible to them.” The author of this historical work, Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D., has done a masterful job in paralleling the conditions that gives rise to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the conditions experienced by Africans who were stolen from their shores, transported to America under the most horrifying conditions, sold into chattel slavery and striped of all human dignity.

Dr. Leary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, a master’s degree in Social Work, a master’s degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Social Work Research. She is a Professor of Social Work at Portland, State University. As an international lecturer she draws on over 20 years of practical work in the field of mental health. If you have not experienced Dr. Leary in person, this book gives you access to a brilliant mind that uses her communication skills to simplify a very complex thesis.

Dr. Leary must be applauded for presenting a body of work that not only identifies problems and causes but also recommends practical solutions. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome a recommended read for students of various disciplines, practitioners, seekers of truth and knowledge. This book is a required reading for all people of African heritage ready for the healing.
Profile Image for Vannessa Anderson.
Author 0 books177 followers
March 22, 2020
…Somewhere along the way, African American children have become so emotionally fragile that they cannot often withstand the implications associated with a simple gaze.

…I am not who I think I am, and I am not who you think I am. I am who I think that you think I am.

We rarely look to our history to understand how African Americans adapted their behavior over centuries in order to survive the stifling efforts of chattel slavery, effects which are evident today.

Recent in the field of epigenetics has revealed that trauma can actually impact an individual’s DNA, and the manifestation of the traumas experienced by prior generations can be passed along genetically to future off Spring.

The enslavement experience was one of continual violent attacks on body, mind, and spirit. Men, women, and children were traumatized throughout their lives and the violent attacks during slavery persisted long after emancipation.

The mother, terrified that the slave master may see qualities in her daughter that could merit her being raped or sold, says, Naw sir, she ain’t worth nothin’, She can’t work, she stupid. She shiftless.

Although Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome was informative; however, and I can’t put my finger on it, I found the book lacking.
Profile Image for J.P..
200 reviews11 followers
February 26, 2015
This was a decent read. Had many parts that were moving as well. It is interesting how she incorporates a 6 week trip to Southern Africa & what she learned about the more family oriented culture does for the people who live in them, even when they have little material possessions. It's a decent read. It initially starting off about what it means to be black in the U.S. & how history has been distorted. Then jumps into the numerous ways black people have been dehumanized physically, abstractly via images & even more directly by the use of (pseudo)science. The third chapter is about the abuses, physical & mental, endured by black people by being taken from Africa, going through the middle passage & everything that happened once in America to them & anyone born into slavery. These two chapters demonstrate the collective effect of being defined as less than human by law & being treated as such in every aspect of life, from birth until death, has on a people. Whether it is being raped, being forced to have children by the master, his sons or other relatives, being beaten & constantly broken down verbally. These effects while also damaging contribute to behaviors that were adapted for survival & to stay as safe as possible within the confines of slavery.

DeGruy demonstrates how these behaviors have been passed down through generations & while at one time may have been beneficial or at least appeared to be so, also have damaging effects themselves. This translates into behavior, emotions, socialization, how we respond to our own as well as others. The stress & damage that comes from being consistently, without any real interruption, being made into the other have very real & far reaching effects that are hard to grasp because it is somewhat abstract & not immediately obvious. This particular section of the book I would have loved to see a bit more fleshed out with some studies that demonstrate the real affects they have in the world, but that is likely something for a larger project.

The last two chapters are about how these things affect black people today & a call to find a way to fix it. The despair, hopelessness, lack of strong cultural foundation, low self-esteem, all play a part in how black people navigate through the world. This is a key area where the aforementioned trip to Southern Africa comes into play. The people she comes into contact with are welcoming & loving & have spiritual foundations that are more about people than anything else. The effects this has on the self-esteem on the people around them is interesting & is likely due to cultural differences that place more emphasis on people rather than things. When you live in a society that is not only not about people but about things and they also shut you out from that, it has profound effects on people. The last chapter is about fixing the problems in black communities which would likely require many things. I'm all for fixing the esteem issues in the community. Support for black businesses is problematic only because of limited access to stable & well-paying jobs & limited access to loans. Without ensuring & stabilizing that, they will continue to falter in times of economic downturn as they tend to do because the low-skill, low-paying & often inconsistent jobs that black people tend to occupy are typically the first to go. With black people being so heavily concentrated in specific neighborhoods because of various structural oppressions, it hits the places in which we live hard & feeds into other issues of poverty. I have two other gripes. One is the author's definition of theory, to the exclusion of hypothesis, but it is minor & doesn't detract from anything she expresses in the book. The other is an essay from Thomas Jefferson in the epilogue which I think is more about white guilt & fear of retaliation than any genuine regret about enslaving people.

Despite the ending of the book, it's still worth a read for understanding the effects that racism & oppression has had on black people in America & how they are connected to issues in the past.
1,317 reviews
January 12, 2011
Very intense book. I'm really interested in the topic of the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and appreciated Dr. Leary's contribution. Even though I knew most facts in this book, the way Dr. Leary put them in context was very illuminating, and her personal anecdotes and stories, while not "data" as such, also provided some very clear pictures of what she was talking about. I don't have quick answers right now as to whether I agree with many things she said, but I'll be mulling over them for a long time.

I felt some sections could have been more filled out; for example, (as a therapist) I was interested in parallels between PTSS and individual PTSD, and would have been curious to see more of this. I felt like her solutions were a little too focused on individual change ("We should tell our stories," "We should look at our own behavior") and not enough on collective, group-oriented, or structural change.
Profile Image for zara.
116 reviews289 followers
January 17, 2022
3.5 stars — Dr. Joy DeGruy coins the term “post-traumatic slave syndrome” to describe the collective impact of American slavery on the descendants of enslaved Africans, tracing the history of slavery and its immediate successors, Jim Crow laws, the convict lease system, medical experimentation on Black Americans, and other forms of racist violence perpetuated by the US government. I was disappointed that the history stopped there, with no mention of current racist laws and institutions like the prison system or family policing system, and I didn’t agree with all of DeGruy’s assessments of the symptoms of PTSS (eg young motherhood, rejecting nuclear family structures). I enjoyed the final section on healing, though I was surprised that there were no systemic remedies offered (beyond taking advantage of zoning laws); DeGruy focused on healing at the individual and communal level.
Profile Image for Taylor Ellwood.
Author 86 books138 followers
November 12, 2014
If you want to understand the legacy of slavery in the U.S. then read this book. It will open your eyes to the impact that slavery continues to have on all of us. While the author focuses mostly on the effect slavery has had on people of color, she also explains the effect it has had on White people. What this book illustrates is how even today the institution of racism is in effect, and shows how the trauma of slavery has created a genetic impact that is reinforced by the racism that stills exists in U.S. culture. this book helps us to face these issues head-on and demands of us that we discuss them openly, explore them and continue the necessary conversations to help change this society into one that is truly equitable for all.
Profile Image for Marguerite Pierce.
27 reviews2 followers
September 25, 2012
This is a tremendous read. There were multiple parts in which I closed my eyes, let out a deep sigh and mumbled a prayer as there was no other way to deal with the subject matter presented throughout some of the chapters. Leary's arguments are well thought out and clearly stated. I commend her for her research and am thankful for the sharing of her experiences and of those close to her. I was familar with most of the subject matter within the book, but Leafy definitely puts it into a perspective that is hard to deny. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Danielle.
68 reviews8 followers
May 24, 2011
This book was so smartly written in that it tackled one of the most brutal, barbaric, devastating and sensitive issues in American history (& sought to explain why in fact it's not yet truly "history"), not only from a personal or emotional platform, but more importantly it forces you to examine the facts and rationalize. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome appealed to the reader on an intellectual level which was simply undeniable.
Profile Image for Tara.
20 reviews
February 18, 2017
If children of individuals with high ACEs scores are influenced by parental trauma, it stands to reason that research on historical trauma would include implications of slavery.

What keeps coming back to me is "knowing your worth and value". Those two factors set the tone for how we treat ourselves and one another. More importantly it sets the tone for how we allow others to treat us. What permission have you given others as far as your self-worth is concerned?
Profile Image for Debora Smith.
45 reviews
August 4, 2015
This is a fantastic book explaining the oppression of African Americans from slavery days to the present. Dr. Leary identifies the beliefs and behaviors that have embedded themselves into the psyche of the African American community and reveals the roots of such. She also offers ways of healing. It is the most comprehensive books on this topic that I have read.
Profile Image for Melissa Davis.
35 reviews12 followers
September 12, 2019
A non-fiction study on the lasting effects of trauma from generation to generation. If you are someone who has ever said "I never owned slaves!" or think racism doesn't exist today, or that Americans of African descent are not still impacted today by the history of slavery in our country - this book will be enlightening and eye-opening for you. Dr. DeGruy is a gentle, kind teacher and you will not be sorry to begin your journey into understanding our difficult history and how it still hurts people today. A great companion book to PTSS is "White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism" by Robin DiAngelo.

While Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome was written in particular for Americans of African descent, it is an important and worthwhile read for those European descent. It will help the reader understand more about African Americans today and the historic traumas they've inherited and continue to endure and will help to understand more about ourselves and the impact that America's history of slavery has on the way we see and operate in American society today.
Profile Image for Jasna.
163 reviews1 follower
October 18, 2021
Powerful, earnest, passionate, written by and for the African American community but enlightening and valuable also for others. Neatly summarizes major injustices, both famous and less famous, as well as ways those injustices, especially the institution of chattel slavery, have affected African Americans generation after generation. Then adds specific steps African Americans can do on the individual, family, and community levels to rise from their PTSS. Her expertise in social work and clinical psychology truly shine in her critical observations she tells. I found the tales and analyses of her trips to various African villages particularly interesting... And the images of the Slave Castle of Cape Coast and Elmina horrifying.

It makes me wonder if there is a similar book on the effects of slavery for white people, "the custodians of an invasive and pernicious racism". Dr. Degruy occasionally details some of the effects as a contrast to African Americans, but of course it's not her primary focus.

I read this book after Black Fatigue, the latter which frequently references the former. I like this book a lot more.
Profile Image for Tracy.
2,390 reviews13 followers
April 29, 2022
This is the second book from my racial injustice class and this book was so hard to read. Not because it wasn't well written or full of personal stories that added so much to the narrative. No, it was hard to read because what was done to black people over the past four hundred plus years in America was horrific beyond imagining. How people could treat other people this way is beyond my understanding. I understand that it is "fashionable" now to say that teaching kids history that makes them feel bad is not to be done. Wrong! We all need to know what was done in this country to make sure it doesn't continue and that we all understand the costs to black people that are still being paid. If it makes you uncomfortable, good! Crimes have been committed and they get brushed over too lightly. I say this as a person who was raised in the south for over half of my upbringing. This was not taught in my high school nor did I learn it in college. I had to learn things myself. We all need to work on our understanding of the American history that happened, not the white-washed (pun intended) stuff that gets a cursory mention.
Profile Image for Kristin Wooten-Oby.
9 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2017
I read this book to try and help better understand myself, my friends, my family, and my society... This is a great book and taught me about how history that happened 400 years ago carried over into how I see myself and the way I understand my place in the world. I was introduced to this book by a graduate professor at an ABPsy conference at Howard University in 2014.
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