The Legacy of Slavery in Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors: Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Frame the Impact of Slavery on African Americans

  • Sannisha K. DaleEmail author
  • Kimberly J. Merren
Part of the Current Clinical Psychiatry book series (CCPSY)


Over 200 years of slavery and trauma, as well as present-day racism and oppression, have had negative psychological effects on generations of African Americans. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex trauma help to shed light on specific ways in which centuries of trauma may psychologically impact African Americans. However, in the face of slavery, racism, and oppression, African Americans have utilized adaptive coping strategies to survive and thrive. This chapter (1) discusses PTSD and complex trauma; (2) revisits traumas that have occurred during and after slavery; (3) uses a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) framework to discuss the impact of slavery on the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of African Americans; (4) highlights adaptive coping mechanisms; and (5) provides an example of a promising and culturally adapted psychological treatment.


African Americans Slavery Trauma Thoughts Emotions Behaviors Cognitive behavioral therapy 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Housing Search, FinanceHomeStart, Inc., Boston Healthcare for the Homeless ProgramBostonUSA

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