Next Wave of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome Survivors

Black Women Resisters in Academia


  • Selena T. Rodgers The City University of New York, York College



Black professional women,, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Posttraumatic Growth, Voice-centered, anti-Black racism, social work education


This study seeks to deepen our understanding of the survival adaptive behaviors, particularly features of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS), identified by Black women professionals who exist at the margins in academia and society. To date, exploration of posttraumatic growth has not been researched concomitantly with PTSS. By examining these variables collectively, this study’s model provides an original contribution to a growing but insufficient literature on Black women professionals who endure institutional racism. Using the Listening Guide, this study presents data from seven (7) Black women professionals in higher education. The study finds interviewees adopt Angry Black Women and Strong Black Woman schema, and PTSS features as a survival strategy stemming from gender discrimination rooted in proximity to Whiteness and habitual attacks on their professional acumen. Congruently, learnings revealed (1) Identity and Positionality, (2) Generational [In]visibility, (3), Professional Rage Located, and (4) Voices of PPTTG—Prayers, People, Trials, Tribulations and God. Dismantling White Supremacy must center Black women's survival herstories and healing at the intersection of anti-Black racism and hidden systematic policies. Practice models that nuance PTSS trauma-informed assessments, the addition of PTSS to the DSM, and widely accepted African-centered paradigms are essential for this wave of race work


Abkhezr, P., McMahon, M., Glasheen, K., & Campbell, M. (2018). Finding voice through narrative storytelling: An exploration of the career development of young African females with refugee background. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 105, 17-30.

Abrams, J. A., Hill, A., & Maxwell, M. L. (2019). Underneath the mask of the strong Black woman schema: Disentangling influences of strength and self-silencing on depressive symptoms among U.S. Black Women. Sex Roles, 80(4), 1-10.

Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow (2nd ed.). New Press.

American Psychiatric Association [APA]. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed). APA.

Ani, M. (1994). Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European culture and thought. African World Press, Inc.

Atta, D. T. (2018). Calling on the divine and sacred energy of queens: Bringing Afrikan indigenous wisdom and spirituality to the academy. In O. N. Perlow, D. I. Wheeler, S. L. Bethea, & B. Scott (Eds.), Black women’s laboratory pedagogies: Resistance, transformation, and healing within and beyond the academy (pp. 227-244). Pelgrave Macmillan

Barlow, J. N., & Dill, L. J. (2018). Speaking for ourselves: Reclaiming, redesigning, and reimagining research on Black women’s health. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 16(2), 219-229.

Barros-Gomes, P., & Baptist, J. (2014). Black women’s ambivalence about marriage: A voice-centered relational approach. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 13, 284-311.

Beal, F. M. (2008). Double jeopardy: To be Black and female. Meridians Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 8(2), 166-176.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. (2008). Listening past the lies that make us sick: A voice-centered analysis of strength and depression among Black women. Qualitative Sociology, 31(4), 391-406.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. (2009). Behind the mask of the strong Black woman: Voice and embodiment of a costly performance. Temple University Press.

Bent-Goodley, T. B., Fairfax, C. N., & Carlton-LaNey, I. (2017). The significance of African-centered social work for social work practice. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(1-2), 1-6.

Bent-Goodley, T., St. Vil, N., & Rodgers, S. T. (2012). Racism. In J. L. Postmus (Ed.), Sexual violence and abuse: An encyclopedia of prevention, impacts, and recovery. (pp. 445-447). ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2015). The structure of racism in color-blind, “Post-racial” America. American Behavioral Scientist, 59(11), 1358-1376.

Brody, D. J., Pratt, L. A., & Hughes, J. P. (2018). Prevalence of depression among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 2013–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 303. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

Brown, L. M., & Gilligan, C. (1991). Listening for voice in narratives of relationship. In M. Tappan & M. Packer (Eds)., Narrative and storytelling: Implications for understanding moral development. New directions for child development (Vol. 54, pp. 43-62). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Campbell, B. (2019). Past, present, future: A program development project exploring Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) using experiential education and dance/movement therapy informed approaches. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 41(2), 214-233.

Carruthers, C. A. (2018). Unapologectic: A Black, queer, and feminist mandate for radical movements. Beacon Press.

Centers for Disease Control. (2018). Summary health statistics: National Health Interview Survey.

Collins, P. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Cooper, B. (2018). Eloquent rage: A Black feminist discovers her superpower. St. Martin’s Press.

Corbin, N. A., Smith, W. A., & Garcia, R. (2018). Trapped between justified anger and being the strong Black women: Black college women with racial battle fatigue at historically and predominately White institutions. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(7), 626-643.

Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2019 or the Crown Act of 2019, H.R.5309 – 116th Cong. (2020).

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). Sage.

Cross, W. E., & Strauss, L. (1998). The everyday functions of African American identify. In K. Swim & C. Stangor (Eds.)., Prejudice: The target’s perspective (pp. 267-279). Academic Press.

Daniel, C. (2018). This maker I call my body: Coloniality and racism in the academy. International Journal of African Renaissance Studies, 13(2), 144-154.

DeGruy, J. D. (2005). Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s legacy of enduring injury and healing. Upton Press.

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Draucker, C. B., Martsolf, D. S., & Poole, C. (2009). Developing distress protocols for research on sensitive topics. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 23(5), 343-350.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (2011). Darkwater: Voices from within the veil. Dover Publications. (Original work published 1920)

Exec. Order No. 13950, 85, 3 C.F.R. 188 (2020).

Exec. Order No. 13985, 86, 3 C.F.R. 14 (2021).

Evans, S. D., Williams, B. E., & Leu, C. S. (2013). Correlates of posttraumatic growth among African Americans living with HIV/AIDS in Mississippi. Online Journal of Rural and Urban Research, 3(1), 1-18.

Fisher, A. K., Moore, D. J., Simmons, C., & Allen, S. C. (2017). Teaching social workers about microaggressions to enhance understanding of subtle racism. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(4), 346-355.

Gilligan, C., Spencer, R., Weinberg, M. K., & Betsch, T. (2003). On the listening guide: A voice-centered relational method. In J. E. Rhoades & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 157-172). APA.

Gutiérrez y Muhs, G., Niemann, Y., Gonzalez, C., & Harris, A. (Eds.). (2012). Presumed incompetent: The intersection of race and class for women in academia. Utah State University Press.

Hall, C. J., & Crutchfield, J. (2018). Black women’s experience of colorist microaggressions. Social Work in Mental Health, 16(4), 491-503.

Halloran, M. J. (2019). African American health and Posttraumatic Slave Syndrome: A terror management theory account. Journal of Black Studies, 50(1), 45-65.

Harrington, E. F., Crowther, J. H., & Shipherd, J. C. (2010). Trauma, binge eating, and the “strong black woman”. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(4), 469-479.

Harris-Perry, M. V. (2011). Sister citizen: Shame, stereotypes, and Black women in America. Yale University Press.

hooks, b. (1989). Ain’t I a Woman. South End Press.

hooks, b. (2014). Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. Routledge.

Hudson-Weems, C. (1993). Africana womanism: Reclaiming ourselves. Bedford Publishers.

Hunter, M. (2007). The persistent problem of colorism: Skin, tone, status, and inequality. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 237-254.

Jerald, M. C., Cole, E. R., Ward, L. M., & Avery, L. (2017). Controlling images: How awareness of group stereotypes affects Black women’s well-being. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(5), 487-499.

Jones, L. V. (2020). Reenvisioning therapy with women of color: A Black feminist perspective. NASW Press.

Karenga, M. (1988). The African American holiday of Kwanzaa. University of Sankore Press.

Karenga, M. (1993). Introduction to Black studies (2nd ed.). University of Sankore Press.

Landson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47-68.

Manove, E., Lowe, S. Bonumwezi, J., Preston, J., Waters, M., & Rhodes, J. (2019). Posttraumatic growth in low-income Black mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 89(2), 144-158.

Martin, E. P., & Martin. J. M. (2002). Spirituality and the Black helping tradition in social work. NASW Press.

Mazama, M. A. (2002). Afrocentricity and African spirituality. Journal of Black Studies, 33(2), 218-234.

Mena, J. A., & Vaccaro, A. (2017). “I’ve struggled, I’ve battled”: Invisibility macroaggressions experienced by women of color at a predominantly white institution. NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, 10(3), 301-318.

Mullings, L. (2005). Resistance and resilience: The Sojourner Syndrome and the social context of reproduction in central Harlem. Transforming Anthropology, 13(2), 79-91.

Ortega-Williams, A. (2017). Is organizing a pathway for wellbeing and post-traumatic growth for Black youth in New York City? Exploring recovery from historical trauma and systematic violence (Doctoral dissertations). Retrieved from ProQuest (10279034).

Ortega-Williams, A., Crutchfield, J., & Hall, J. C. (2019). The colorist historical trauma framework: Implications for culturally responsive practice with African Americans. Journal of Social Work, 0(0), 1-16.

Perlow, O. N., Wheeler, D. I., Bethea, S, L., &, Scott, B. (Eds.). (2018). Black women’s laboratory pedagogies: Resistance, transformation, and healing Within and beyond the academy (pp. 281-294). Pelgrave Macmillan.

Prather, C., Fuller, T. R., William, L. J., Marshall, K. J., Howell, A. V., Belyue-Umole, A., & King, W. (2018). Racism, African American women and their sexual reproductive health: A review of historical and contemporary evidence and implications for health equity. Health Equity, 2(1), 249-259.

Rodgers, S. T. (2017). Womanism and Afrocentricity: Understanding the intersection. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Special Issue on African Centered Social Work: Theory and Practice, 27(1-2), 36-47, https://doi:10.1080/10911359.2016.1259927

Rodgers, S. T., & Lopez-Humphreys, M. (2020). Social work leadership: Grand challenges for Black women [Special Issue on Mainstreaming Gender: An Intersectional Feminist Perspective on Social Work’s Grand Challenges]. Social Work, 65(4), 397-400.

Rodgers-Rose, L. (1972). The dominant values of Black culture. Aframailibrary.

Smith, K-A, M., Alves, K., Weatherby, I., Jr., & Yi, J. D. (2020). Invictus: Race and emotional labor of faculty of color at the urban community college. The Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning, 25, 118-135.

Speakes-Lewis, A. (2018). What’s respect got to do with it? A Black woman’s experience with the role of respect in academia. In. U. Thomas (Ed)., Navigating micro-aggressions toward women in higher education (pp. 181-201). IGI Global Publishing.

Spencer, Z., & Perlow, O. N. (2018). Sassy mouths, unfettered spirits, and the Neo-lynching of Korryn Gaines and Sandra Bland: Conceptualizing Post Traumatic Master Syndrome and the familiar “policing” of Black women’s resistance in twenty-first century America. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 17(1), 163-183.

St. Vil, N. M., St. Vil, C., & Fairfax, C. (2019). Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the patriarchal nuclear family structure, and African American male-female relationships. Social Work, 64(2), 139-146.

Sule, E., Sutton, R., Jones, D., Moore, R., Igbo, I., & Jones, L. A. (2017). The past does matter: A nursing perspective on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 4(5), 779-783.

Tedeschi, R. G., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Taku, K., & Calhoun, L. G. (2018). Posttraumatic growth: Theory, research, applications. Routledge.

West, C. M. (2018). Treatment interventions for intimate partner violence in the lives of African American women: A social just approach. In S. Gelberg, M. Poteet, D. D. Moore, & D. Coyhis (Eds.), Radical psychology: Multicultural and social justice decolonization initia¬tives (pp. 89-110). Lexington Books.

Williams, M., Metger, I., Leins, C., & DeLapp, C. (2018). Assessing racial trauma within a DSM-5 framework: The UConn Racial/Ethnic Stress & Trauma Survey. Practice Innovations, 3(4), 242-260.

Woods-Giscombé, C. L., Robinson, M. C., Carthron, D., Devane-Johnson, S., & Corbie-Smith, G. (2016). Superwoman schema, stigma, spirituality, and culturally sensitive providers: Factors influencing African American women’s use of mental health services. Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity: Research, Education, and Policy, 9(1), 1124-1144.